On a frigid Wednesday evening interleague matchup between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Boston Red Sox, outfielder Jeff Francoeur hit his first big league home run since 2013 off Rick Procello’s 84 MPH slider to send his team to their first victory of the season.
“I hammered it,” Francoeur said to reporters after the game. “Actually, I was like, ‘I hope it goes.’ It was tough tonight with the wind and rain. But we battled through it, and that’s the key.”
It’s nice to see how far Frenchy has come since his year-long stay in the minor leagues as a member of the San Diego Padres’ Triple-A affiliate, the El Paso Chihuahuas. That kind of assignment last season in what was supposed to be his ninth year in the big leagues is quite a fall from being dubbed as “The Natural” on the cover of Sports illustrated in 2005 while he was debuting for his hometown Atlanta Braves.
It wasn’t enough to merely exist in the minor leagues after an MLB career in which he won a Gold Glove in 2007 and won the AL Pennant in 2010, he had to be the butt of Santa Monica’s own Cody Decker’s signature prank. He and the rest of his Chihuahua brethren fooled Francouer to believe that pitcher Jorge Reyes was deaf.
“Who is this stupid,” Decker asked in his own famous/infamous video, “on Earth? Ever? Jeff Francouer.”
It didn’t end there, of course. In late July of that same season, the team caught Francouer using the coaches bathroom in the Chihuahua homeclubhouse. So with the help of some elastic bands and other resistance training equipment, Frenchy’s teammates locked in him the bathroom at every end.
“Going in the bathroom in the coaches’ locker room is forbidden,” El Paso manager Pat Murphy said in the video. “He wouldn’t do it for [Braves Hall of Fame manager] Bobby Cox. He’s not going to do it for the Chihuahuas.”
They kept him in there for over an hour, until he finally escaped through the ventilation. Which, sight unseen, couldbeseen as a symbolic metaphor for his rise back into the big leagues.
Francoeur entered Phillies camp in Spring Training this year as a non-roster invitee. He made their Opening Day roster largely because he was one of the only right-handed bats in the organization with power potential and defense ability in right field.
“A lot of hitting is getting confidence,” Francoeur said. “You get beat down, man. Two thousand and thirteen took a lot out of me to be honest with you. Even last year, just go out in Triple-A, but just to have fun again and play again. Like I said, when I hit that one today, it was pretty cool just for the whole fact that you grind and you battle in this game, and when you get an opportunity you try to make the most of it.”
It’s great to see what looks like so far as Frenchy’s story of redemption after being laughed at by millions on YouTube thanks to a certain Samohi alum. He is in fact, one of the nicest players in all of baseball.
As for Decker, his contribution to fantastic filmmaking was featured on ESPNand when he nottoo busy getting blown up by bombs as seen on TVduring the offseason, he’s hitting bombs on the baseball field in El Paso. So everybody is doing well in the end.
Tony Capobianco started the SMDP column “Cap Space” just in time for the 2014-15 Clippers season. You can contact him via email at email@example.com.