It's been nearly a decade since Chipper Jones stepped into the batter's box as the Atlanta Braves third baseman at Citi Field – the home ballpark of the New York Mets and one of Chipper's homes away from home. The Hall of Fame slugger taunted the New York Mets during his career and continued to be a towering presence on Opening Day on Friday.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, fans are not allowed in Major League Baseball stadiums. It was an eery sight to see an empty stadium and hear artificial fan noise being pumped through the stadium's sound system.
It was even more odd to see cardboard cutouts of people in the stands. But there they were. Apparently anybody had the chance to purchase one. How else can you explain a former opposing player who terrorized the Mets on their own field being allowed to buy a cutout of himself and one of his son, Shea, who was named after the Mets' former home ballpark?
If I was Mets management, if Chipper didn't pony up and make a generous donation to the Mets organization, somebody has some explaining to do to allow the biggest Mets' rival make a statement on opening day.
But that's what Chipper did and what his career was built on against the Mets. He owned a career .309 average against the National League East rival and compiled 49 homers and 159 RBIs in 245 career games. It was in 1999 when Chipper really dominated the Mets. En route to his only Most Valuable Player award, Chipper batted .400 with seven homers and 16 RBIs in just 12 games. He was a big reason the Braves knocked off the Mets in the National League Championship Series and advance to their fifth World Series of the decade.
As for this year's season opener, the game finished as a clunker. The Braves were blanked on just a handful of hits. Mets ace Jacob deGrom flashed the brilliance that earned him back-to-back Cy Young awards, compiling five shutout innings. Atlanta ace Mike Soroka was just as spectacular, pitching six shutout innings. Just one mistake by Braves reliever Chris Martin landed in the empty seats for the Mets who won 1-0.
But the mere presence of a former Brave who terrorized the Mets on the field and now in the stands made my day as a fan. Even if this year's version of the Braves stunk it up in the season opener.
—Clint Thompson is a special contributor to The Union-Recorder.