NEW YORK (AP) — Every which way Chipper Jones turned at Citi Field, someone wanted to thank him.
Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon presented the Atlanta star with a pricey piece of 3-D artwork. A policeman gave him a firm handshake, an usher provided a pat on the back. A man intercepted Jones in the hallway near the clubhouse, reached into a shopping bag and handed him the Braves flag that flew over Shea Stadium and a framed part of the outfield wall.
"I sure appreciate it," Jones told the memorabilia dealer.
Sure was a lot of love for someone who spent almost two decades tormenting the New York Mets.
Jeered, heckled and serenaded with derisive chants of "Lar-ry! Lar-ry!" for years, Jones arrived at the ballpark Friday for his final series in Queens. The retiring 40-year-old slugger was treated like a king, too, showered with smiles and compliments as he greeted fans behind the cage during batting practice.
"Kind of weird," he said during a pregame news conference, "for everybody to be out here for little ol' me."
Jones even drew more polite applause than boos when he was introduced before the first pitch. He stepped out of the dugout and waved his cap in acknowledgment.
But when he stepped up to hit in the opening inning, it was back to normal. Louder boos, a couple fans chanting his actual first name and a groundout. With a big chance in the third, Jones struck out with the bases loaded.
The third baseman finished 0 for 4 with a throwing error in a 3-0 win.
"Pregame was a blast. The whole day was a blast, except for when I went to step up to the plate or a ball was hit to me," Jones said.
Prior to the first pitch, Jones said he wasn't certain what kind of reaction he would receive, adding, "I like to think it will be somewhat mixed."
Asked what he would think about Chipper Jones if he were a Mets fan, he smiled and said: "I would respect the body of work, but I would hate his guts."
Jones hit the first two home runs of his career at Shea, and liked the ballpark so much that his 8-year-old son is named Shea.
"His room has been decorated in orange and blue from the get-go," Jones said. The boy's bedroom also features two seats from Shea.
Before unveiling the piece of artwork that portrayed the now-demolished Shea — where Jones did most of his damage — Wilpon playfully said the eight-time All-Star assured him he wouldn't be returning to the ballpark after this weekend.