Guys, we did it…

chone read my article

WOW. There are no words to describe the feeling that came over me when I read Juan’s response. This is one of those defining moments in life that I will never, ever forget. I may never meet Chone again, and that’s ok, because I got to tell my hero what he means to me and, most importantly, tell him thanks. That’s all I could ever ask for.

Thank you to all of my readers who support this blog and helped get my letter into Juan’s hands. Your persistence paid off. And, of course, thank you to Juan Pierre for sharing this with Chone. You will never know how much this means to me.

-Joe

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We have the Juan Pierre stamp of approval!

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For those that don’t know, Juan Pierre is one of the greatest leadoff hitters of all-time. He’s also great friends with Chone Figgins. We decided to send him the link to our Figgins tribute piece (which can be found here) and he loved it! We’re one step closer to getting Chone himself to read it! Go give our boy Juan a follow on Twitter. He’s a great player and a great man (and my brother’s hero).
Also, earlier today we were officially published on Baseball-Reference.com, the ultimate site for baseball statistics! Starting today, all of our posts that mention a player can be found on that player’s page (ex. Figgins and Vlad Guerrero). This is an absolutely HUGE day for The Batter’s Eye and we thank you for being part of it!

Saying “Goodbye” to my hero: a letter to Chone Figgins

Dear Chone,

I know you will never read this. However, this is something I need to do to cope with the news that came yesterday.  24 hours ago, you announced that you will be retiring after signing a one-day contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the team that you spent the majority of your incredible career with.  As a lifelong fan, this is news I was expecting for a few years.  Alas, that does not begin to dull the pain.

The first time I saw you play was in April of 1999 when you were the starting shortstop for my hometown Salem Avalanche.  As a 4-year-old, there were 2 primary reasons why you were my favorite player, 1) Chone Figgins is a fun name to say, and 2) I loved your walk-up song (I used to do this thing I called the “booty dance” every time it came on.  Thank goodness camera phones weren’t a thing then.)  From there, my fandom only grew.  Every now and then my parents would take me down to the dugout and wait for you to go out and stretch so I could get an autograph or two.  You always obliged.

As a young kid, I didn’t quite understand how the minor league system worked and, in 2001, I was absolutely devastated to learn that you had been called up to AA.  My dad reassured me that it was a great thing and that it meant I had a better chance of seeing you play for many years to come.  Thankfully, that was the case.

I have many fond memories of your playing career.  You leading the Majors with 62 stolen bases in 2005 and hitting for the cycle in 2006 were special.  I only got to see you play in the Majors once, against the Nationals in 2008.  You had a bunt base hit that day.  I’ll never forget that.  Another special moment was watching you come up to bat for the Dodgers for the first time in 2014.  I was devastated when the Marlins let you go at the beginning of the previous season and I was terrified that was it.  Watching you come up to bat again was an incredible feeling.

However, my favorite moment in sports history is when you made the AL All-Star team in 2009.  Every now and then, I think back on hearing your name being called in the introductions and it brings a tear to my eye.  You loved the game and it was on full display.  I have the card of that moment on my desk right next to me as I type this.  Last semester I even wrote a paper about it.  We were asked, “What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from sports?”  The lesson I learned from you is to love what you do.  Whenever you stepped foot on a diamond you had a smile on your face, even when times were tough in Seattle.  That is what I will always remember about you.

I remember the moment I became an Angels fan.  I was at an Avalanche game in 2003 and went to the team store to buy a pack of baseball cards.  I chose the 2003 Donruss pack with Sammy Sosa on the cover.  My brother suggested I get another pack that had more cards in it, but I told him no, “I want the Sammy Sosa pack.”  I opened it up and flipped through the cards.  The very last one was your Rated Rookie card and that’s when I learned you had been traded to Anaheim.  I was so excited to get the card that I sprinted back to our seats to show my grandpa.  He always loved how you played the game and I wanted to share that moment with him.

My grandpa died from dementia in 2012.  Tragically, it got to a point where he really couldn’t remember much.  Outside of his room at the nursing home was a shadow box.  In it were a lot of items that meant something to him and were there to try and help him remember things.  In the box was that card.  One day I was helping him walk around and he stopped at his shadow box.  He pointed and said, “Chone Figgins.  He was great.  Remember him?”  I looked at him, smiled, and said, “Yeah, Pop.  I remember him.”  You were my hero growing up and your career has always meant the world to me.  But now knowing what you meant to my Poppy, that makes your career even more special.

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Seeing your passion for the game made me develop a passion for it too.  I was never any good but I’ve always loved the game.  In fact, I’m devoting my life to it.  Today is my first day as a Ticket & Sales Intern for the Washington Nationals.  Without you and your love for the sport I would not be in this position.

Today you retire after signing a one-day contract with the Angels.  I guess it’s somewhat fitting that the day your baseball career ends, mine begins.

However, I hope this is not the end.  Whether it be as a little league coach or a Major League scout, I hope you stay in baseball.  It doesn’t matter in what capacity, the game is just better with you in it.

Looking back on your career and what it meant to me and my Poppy, I, unashamed, write this with tears in my eyes and a smile on my face.

It was a good ride, Chone, and I thank you for it.

Signed,

A fan.

No Halo in Hall of Fame Heaven

andersonI promise that not every other article will be about Hall of Fame snubs (however, we do have 2 more lined up that are Hall of Fame related).  Today I make the case for the greatest Angel of all-time, Garret Anderson.

After an impressive 17 year career that featured 2,529 hits, 522 doubles, 1,365 RBI and 8 consecutive seasons with 150+ games played, Garret Anderson received one Hall of Fame vote.  Honestly, it was one more than I thought he was going to get.  Still, I’d like to see him enshrined in Cooperstown.

Growing up an Angels fan, it was hard not to love Garret.  He was the model of consistency and played the game “the right way”.  I felt comfortable about our chances of winning each day knowing #16 was going to be out in left field.

As mentioned earlier, Anderson is the greatest Angel of all-time.  Well, that is until Mike Trout shatters all of his records with both hands tied behind his back (that’s the only way to make it fair at this point).  As of now, Garret is the franchise’s all-time leader in games played, at-bats, hits, singles, doubles, total bases, extra-bases, runs and RBIs.  He also made it to 3 All-Star Games (including 2003 when he won the All-Star Game MVP and Home Run Derby, a feat only matched by Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr.)  and won 2 Silver Sluggers towards the end of the ‘Steroid Era’.

However, it will be for Game 7 of the 2002 World Series that Anderson will be most remembered.  At-bat with the bases loaded in the 3rd inning of a 1-1 game, Garret ripped a double down the right field line that scored all 3 runners.  With young stud John Lackey on the mound, that’s all the Angels would need to secure their first and only World Series title in franchise history.

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However, there are two big knocks against Garret’s career: 1) due to the likes of Troy Glaus and Vladimir Guerrero, he was never really considered to be the best player on the team and 2) he had zero plate discipline.  You know how Vladimir Guerrero swung at almost everything?  Well Garret swung at literally everything.  In his 17 year career he only averaged a measly 25 walks per season.  This led to Garret owning a slightly above average .324 on-base percentage.  (This is also a common knock against Ichiro, however, he is a Hall of Fame lock.)

I will admit, my longing for Garret Anderson to make the Hall of Fame is rooted in my fandom, but come on, literally no one enshrined in Cooperstown is wearing an Angels’ hat.  That might change next year with Vladimir Guerrero who is a likely first ballot Hall of Famer and is deciding between the Angels and the Expos.  If not, we’re going to have to wait another 20 some years for Mike Trout, assuming he doesn’t leave for somewhere like New York or Philadelphia (which he definitely will.)  Ugh.

My Baseball Experience

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Ever since I was a little boy, baseball has been my true love.  I grew up going to Salem Avalanche games and watching/idolizing players like Chone Figgins, Choo Freeman and Matt Holliday among many others.  I was absolutely terrible with a bat in my hand so, thankfully, I was able to live vicariously through them.

In 2003, I opened a pack of baseball cards and received my first Major League Chone Figgins card (pictured above).  That’s when I learned he had been traded to the Angels and, thus, I became an Angels fan.

The release of MVP Baseball 2005 on GameCube only strengthened my love for the game and that Angels team.  That 2005 team still holds a very special place in my heart. Chone Figgins, Big Bad Vlad Guerrero, Garret Anderson, K-Rod, two-thirds of the Molina brothers…

I digress.  In 2014 I took a minimum wage job selling concessions with the Salem Red Sox (formerly the Avalanche).  It’s not a glamorous job but I loved it because I got to work for a baseball team.  Walking into a baseball stadium every day is the best job there is.

I have since made it my goal to be a baseball lifer.  The dream is to work in some capacity for a Major League front office. It’s going to be quite the adventure. To quote  Adam the Woo, “Join me, shall you?”