Editor's Note: Jeff Francoeur, orginally out of Parkview High School (GA) signed with Clemson to play football in the 2002 recruiting class, but instead of enrolling in school, he elected to try his hand in Major League Baseball with the Atlanta Braves. Francoeur has spent the last three years in the minor leagues before getting the call up to the Braves just yesterday. He was a first round selection for the Atlanta Braves that year, receiving a 2.2 million signing bonus to help lure him away from the gridiron.
SHANKS: How did you find out you were a big leaguer?
FRANCOEUR: Snit (Mississippi Manager Brian Snitker) called me. It was about 7 o'clock. We were eating dinner at the Japanese Steak House. (Mississippi's game in Montgomery had been rained out.) I went up to his room. He wanted me to come up there. He had his family there and some friends, some kids. He said to them, "Why don't you take a picture with a big leaguer?" I turned to him and he told me. It was pretty cool.
SHANKS: So what did he say?
FRANCOEUR: He just told me that Brian Jordan went on the DL and I was going up. I went and made a few phone calls to mom and dad and my girlfriend Katie, my agent, and a couple of people. Then I went back in and finished eating with Jon (Schuerholz) and all them. I was with Schuerholz and (Wes) Timmons and (Glenn) Tucker and (Joey) Devine. We were at a Japanese steakhouse. We were going to go see a movie tonight, but this is going to outdo that I think.
SHANKS: What immediately entered your mind?
FRANCOEUR: I really had no clue. Brian McCann had called me earlier and I thought maybe it was that. But when I got there (to Snit's room) he had that smile on his face I figured that something had happened.
SHANKS: So you had not talked with Brian at that point?
FRANCOEUR: No but I called Brian right back after. Brian had kind of called me (before Snitker got in touch with Jeff). He felt bad. We were at the restaurant and he said, "Congratulations." I was like, "What?" Then he said, "Call me in a little bit" and he hung up. I would have known but we were in a steak house and Snit had called me three or four times and I didn't recognize his number. So I just pressed ‘off.' I should have known, but we were in that Japanese steakhouse and all the cooks were doing all their tricks, so we were too busy watching that.
SHANKS: Did you go back down and tell Jonathan and Timmons and the crew?
FRANCOEUR: Yeah. They were all pumped up. They got up and gave me a hug. The whole restaurant was wondering what the heck was going on.
SHANKS: What have the last few weeks been for you watching McCann and (Kyle) Davies and (Blaine) Boyer, three of your closest friends, go up to the big leagues?
FRANCOEUR: It's been a good experience to be honest with you with those guys up there. Obviously I wanted to be up there with them, but I just had to be patient and keep playing. I think that was the number one thing. You know I talked with Dayton (Moore, Director of Player Personnel) and everybody else and they all just told me to keep playing and when your time comes your time will come. I think I've taken a good approach with that the last couple of weeks with that and just started back to playing my ball and it helped. My average went up and my power numbers went up and I started to really play well. I think I just wasn't worried about that as much.
SHANKS: But you had to want to be up there with them?
FRANCOEUR: Of course. Of course. I think you always want to. I've talked with Kelly (Johnson) and Brian and all those guys. They're just having so much fun that I couldn't wait to be there with them.
SHANKS: Ok so after you found out, what happened when you talked with Heep (Brian McCann)?
FRANCOEUR: I just talked to Heep and he said, "Congratulations." He couldn't wait for me to get up there with him. He was excited. It was neat.
SHANKS: Can you believe that two years ago all four of you were in Rome? It's unbelievable.
FRANCOEUR: It's crazy. I think it just goes to show you though how good the organization is and the trust they have in the young guys to come up and have the ability to play. I think that helped out.
SHANKS: I know you have all the confidence in the world in your ability, but does it help that those other three guys have gone up and done well?
FRANCOEUR: Yeah. I think you always compare yourself and you wonder, so it does give you some confidence knowing that you can go up there and play. Talking with those guys they've said that it's just like AA and AAA in that it's baseball. They've still got to throw the ball over the plate. They've got to make their pitches and you've got to make your swings. So I think when you hear that you kind of figure some stuff out it definitely gives you some confidence.
SHANKS: So what did your dad say?
FRANCOEUR: He was just as excited as he could be. He's just happy to get the chance to come down there and watch me play at Turner Field.
SHANKS: I know this could be for two weeks, for however long Brian's out, or it could be for fifteen years, but do you think you are ready?
FRANCOEUR: Yeah. I am. Whether it is for two weeks or whatever, I'm just excited to get the chance to get up there and play some and show them what I can do. I'm just going to try to play within myself and not try to do too much obviously. At the end of the day I just want to be able to know I gave everything I had and just see where that takes me.
SHANKS: You've always felt like you were almost destined to play for the Atlanta Braves. Do you think you can help this team get back to the playoffs?
FRANCOEUR: I've felt this year that I could help the (Atlanta) team a little bit. I just want to see if I can. It'll be a good opportunity to get out and play some with the guys and just have a blast and take the whole experience in.
SHANKS: I know you've worked on your plate discipline. Do you feel that you have improved that this year?
FRANCOEUR: I feel good. I've taken some good swings in the last couple of weeks. I feel good. I've always been a free swinger and I think I always will be, but I feel good in the fact that I'm swinging at better pitches now. I think that comes with experience. It's not really anything I did; it's just that I'm starting to click a little more in some areas.
SHANKS: Just maturity.
SHANKS: Who all called you from the Braves?
FRANCOEUR: They've all called. Roy (Clark, Braves' Scouting Director), Al (Goetz, Georgia scout), and Dayton. Now I'm with J.J. Picollo on the way home, so obviously I've talked with him a lot. I actually got to talk with Big John (Schuerholz). He called Jon while we were at dinner. He just told me congratulations real quick and told me the same thing, "Don't try to overdo it too much and have fun and play your best."
Bill Shanks has a new book out called "Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team." The book includes a chapter on Jeff Francoeur. Bill can be reached at email@example.com.
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