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.
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.