In part 3 of our series on Turner Field, we hear from Chipper Jones, the star of the Braves teams that won so many NL East Championships. He took time from a hunting trip to answer my questions about the Braves’ ballpark for the past 20 seasons. I used some of his comments in an article on Turner Field that is in the current issue of USA TODAY Sports Weekly, available on newsstands from Coast to Coast … but I thought you’d like to read the entire interview.
You can find Part 1 of our series (featuring a transcript of my lengthy interview with the fascinating John Schuerholz) here and Part 2 (with live-wire Braves fan T.W. Lord, who is 89 years old) here.
JOE MOCK: Can you sum up your feelings about Turner Field?
CHIPPER JONES: It was just home. During those 16 years, I spent as much time there as I did anywhere, including my own house. And, that home away from home, if you will, was filled with all of my brothers over 16 years. Bobby Cox was our manager and father figure, and he made managing an art form by keeping the peace and protecting us every night on and off the field. It is 16 memorable years that I continue to treasure and will never forget.
JOE: What are some specific moments there that stand out in your mind?
CHIPPER: My first game there in ’97 in a win against the Cubs. Getting the first hit ever at Turner Field, and getting an RBI in that game to tie it up. All of the playoff games during that great run we had, including the first World Series game in ‘99. Hitting that HR at the 2000 All Star Game. All the Hall of Famers playing and coaching their last game there. The millions of great fans that came through the turnstiles over the 16 years and tens of thousands every night doing the tomahawk chop and supporting us for all of those years. Most importantly, every guy that put on the Braves uniform and walked up that hallway to our home dugout. I will never forget any of those moments, those fond memories.
JOE: What emotions are you feeling about the Braves moving out of Turner Field?
CHIPPER: It is bittersweet, because I have so many wonderful memories of The Ted. That being said, it is a tremendous opportunity to get to see this city open SunTrust Park and The Battery because it is a chance for Atlanta to shine again. Coming out of the ’96 Olympics and having the incredible playoff run we did after we moved into Turner Field, you simply couldn’t have scripted it better. Now, we have another opportunity to shine as a city and as an organization with the young talented players we have in our system. I am excited and sad at the same time.
And, although I keep going back to it, the thing that I miss the most are lacing them up every night with those 24 other guys and doing what we did for 81 home games a year — bringing our best for our city and our fans.