Around this time 13 years ago I went on a family vacation to Orlando, Florida. I was 12 years old at that time and I was a huge Braves fan. My father and I became Braves fans because we were able to watch every game on TBS. Living in New York our only other choices were the Yankees or Mets and we really dislike both of them.
I was excited to go to Orlando because this was the Braves second Spring Training at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex and my dad said that we can go one day while my mom and sisters hung out at the hotel. I was a little disappointed on the day we went because only pitchers and catchers had to report and I was worried my favorite player (Chipper Jones) wouldn't be there.
When we arrived at the main stadium there were a lot of people crowded around the dugouts and I thought I would never get a chance to meet anyone. This was my first time at a Spring Training complex and actually my first time ever seeing Major League Baseball players in person.
My dad and I went down around home plate because we saw Javy Lopez posing for pictures. We started talking to a guy who was only there to get a picture of Javy and get his autograph for his daughter who loved him. This guy actually stepped onto the field after Javy was done getting his picture taken and went up to Javy for an autograph and a picture. While he was down there I tossed him my fresh new Little League baseball I brought and he had Javy sign it for me. Needless to say the guy got kicked out pretty soon after I got my autograph. I couldn't help but to think I was off to a good start!
I went to hang out with the crowd around the dugouts because we saw John Smoltz playing catch in front of the dugout. He was recovering from injury because I remember people asking him how he was feeling and I found it amazing he was actually answering and responding to the fans. When he went into the dugout he didn't sign any autographs but he said he would be back soon to sign (he never came back). Tom Glavine was there and did pretty much the same thing.
We got frustrated and kind of bored just hanging out by the dugouts so my father and I decided to take a walk to explore the huge Disney complex. We walked to a back field where there was one guy just hanging out and we started talking to him for a little. Next thing I knew a whole group of Braves players were walking up to take fielding practice on one of the back fields. One of these players was Chipper Jones. In one of the most thrilling moments of my life I managed to get up enough nerve to ask Chipper to sign my #10 jersey I was wearing. He told me he would after he got done fielding. I was concerned he wouldn't and would be like Smoltz and Glavine and say he would but never come back. To make matters worse pretty much the entire main stadium followed those guys over to the back field. (Gred Maddux was also there and I know I should have made a bigger deal about this but I really just wanted to meet Chipper).
After the guys were done with their fielding practice a mob of what seemed like hundreds were around the field I thought I would never get Chipper to sign my jersey. However, he is Chipper Jones and this is the reason I obsess over him and I think he is the best guy in professional baseball, he found me among the massive crowd. He didn't sign a single autograph until he found me and said I told you I would sign your shirt. He signed my jersey and my dad asked him if he would take a picture with me. Chipper agreed. Even when my dad accidentally shut the camera off instead of the picture Chipper just laughed and agreed to wait until the camera was back on. I ended up getting 3 more autographs from him until he finally looked and me, smiled and said "that's enough for you kid". None of my autographs are really worth any money. He signed a pink piece of paper, my replica batting practice jersey, my dirty hat I was wearing, and the Little League ball that Javy Lopez also signed.
They may not be worth any money but they are priceless to me and some of my most treasured items. I remember that day so well and the short time I had with Chipper has made me a fan of his for life. He honestly can do no wrong in my eyes. I do not know of any other player that would seek a fan out because he made a promise to them. I attached my picture with him from 1998. I was only 12 and he was just entering the best years of his career. The other picture was my fiance and I from a couple years ago when the Braves played in Toronto. I don't get to see them play often but when they are around Syracuse, NY and they play the Mets, Pirates, or on the rare chance they play in Toronto I go see them play.
Side note: I did get Greg Maddux autograph twice in case there was anyone yelling at me for being too concerned with Chipper and ignoring Maddux.