Weird Enough For You, Folks?

The Braves hosted their 2007 Fan Fest yesterday, and while the pictures from AJC were pretty lame and the official site hasn’t put any up yet, one interesting thing did come from a day of autographs and kids running the bases: Mark Bowman’s Frenchy Lovefest Article – the first one of the year!

Coincidence??

Let’s take a closer look:

ATLANTA — Francoeur-mania was alive and well at the start of Winter FanFest 2007, which drew more than 15,000 fans to Turner Field on Saturday.

So, the marketing department is going with Frenchy again this year, huh? I’m not surprised, the franchise was pretty hell bent on ignoring anything he did wrong last year, and in fact seemed to encourage any wrongdoing he needed them to get behind, particularly never taking a day off. I like how they have Bowman immediately point out that “Francoeur-mania” is “alive and well,” at least acknowledging that it was slightly endangered at some point.

Less than 15 minutes after the gates opened, the autograph lines for both Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann had reached their maximum limit. Those who were fortunate enough to position themselves early enough gained the guarantee that they’d obtain the signature of one of these hometown heroes.

A-ha, the first mention of Heap, who actually had a great season last year! But I kind of like this strategy, actually. Let Frenchy be the face of the team and get all the attention he wants, Heap can do the real work. He’s parliament, out there passing laws while Frenchy has his face printed on the money. It’s really kind of an excellent partnership, until Heap gets on base with two outs and Frenchy comes up after him, but Heap even found a way around that toward the end of 2006 when his power numbers went up, clearing the bases himself just in case.

Those who were not so fortunate were forced to show a sense of determination that proved beneficial for Jennifer Golden, Tiffany Humble and Kelli Hall, a trio of women who formed a new friendship while in pursuit of Francoeur’s signature.

Somehow I think I can picture Jennifer, Tiffany and Kelli pretty clearly. Frenchy is ushering in a whole new era of Fans Who Don’t Care About the Game at Turner. Last year, two of their promotions were Knitting Night and Wine Tasting Night. That’s not a joke, those things actually happened.

When three fans decided that the line was too long, they gave their cards, which guaranteed a signature, to these three women, who had continued to wait at the end of Francoeur’s line, which began in the middle of the 755 Club (in left-center field) and extended within the Lexus Level all the way to third base.

Jesus, pay for a seat behind home plate any time during the season and Frenchy will sign whatever you want. Fifty dollars is a small price to pay to avoid waiting in a four hour line. Just sayin’.

For Golden and Hall, who both reside in Atlanta, the generous gesture provided an opportunity to obtain signed items that would bring surprising joy to their chosen men. For Humble, it meant that her first trip to Turner Field allowed her to realize her goal of meeting Francoeur, the 23-year-old outfielder who hasn’t allowed stardom to erase his always-affable personality.

I’m still stuck on what “that would bring surprising joy to their chosen men” even means. Their chosen men?

“It’s days like today that humble you and make you realize how much people really look forward to the season,” said Francoeur, who became McCann’s best friend nearly 10 years ago when the two were growing up about 20 minutes north of Turner Field.

Smooth mention of the Sacred Bond there, Bowman. If there’s anything the Braves sell almost as much as Frenchy’s face, it’s his friendship with Heap. God forbid they ever have a feud of some kind. But wait!:

While a case of laryngitis prevented McCann from conversing with many of 500 people who filled his line, Francoeur’s mouth was moving as fast and often as his bat. As one young boy walked away after obtaining a signature, the Braves right fielder looked at the youngster, smiled and said, “Hey, come up and play with me someday.”

“Francoeur’s mouth was moving as fast and often as his bat” aside, oh God. Heap was refusing to talk. Laryngitis? Really, Heap? I don’t blame him at all, but what’s actually going on here . . .?

It’s Francoeur’s effervescent personality combined with his endless amount of athleticism that makes him such a favorite among men and women, both young and old. One grown man got his autograph and then said, “I love you Francoeur. You’re the best.”

This almost makes me feel sorry for Bowman. It’s like they gave him a minimum number of superlatives that he had to fit into the article. They may have even given him a specific list. And yeah, last time I sat in right field there were plenty of hoochied-up moms screaming “FRENCHY” throughout the entire game, but I also had some of the dudes he’s writing about here sitting around me. Their love for Frenchy is quieter and more dignified, creepier.

“In this sport, it’s really easy to get away from the real world,” Francoeur said. “But I think you have to always come back to your roots and where you’re from. To stay humble, I think you just have to remind yourself that you’re just a regular person like everybody else.”

I should take a moment here to say I actually like Frenchy and am rooting for him to smarten up at the plate and do well this year. I don’t blame the organization for making him the face of the franchise, either, cause he is great looking and very well spoken for an athlete, and he’s had his moments (moments that Bowman will remind us about every couple of days or so during the season, more often when Frenchy has struck out in his last nine appearances). I just get a little worn out on this:

But while Francoeur may still act like a regular person, his accomplishments and experiences are anything but regular. At the age of 21, he found himself of the cover of Sports Illustrated. About seven months later, he found himself as a member of the United States team that competed in last year’s World Baseball Classic.

Really, we’re going all the way back to the SI cover (they have since called him a bust, prematurely I think, but not entirely unfairly)? Does anyone really remember the World Baseball Classic that fondly? C’mon, Bowman, throw out the old ‘played in 162 games last season’ or ‘100 RBI’ chestnuts, at least.

All of this has led individuals like Golden to literally jump with joy after seeing Francoeur take time to write, “Let’s play golf” on the bat that he autographed for her boyfriend, John Feldman.

Awww, Frenchy. You’re so gosh darn likable, I even feel guilty picking on the goofy ass articles that get written about you.

“I’m shaking,” Goldman professed as Francoeur ended his autograph session that lasted two hours.

I can’t really make fun of her. Last time I saw Frenchy up close I was standing right by the dugout with a couple of other girls and we were all sort of in a trance. Not “shaking,” but he is quite good looking.

All of this excitement has been created before Francoeur has ever had the opportunity to stay in big-league camp throughout all of Spring Training. Playing for Team USA last year caused him to miss nearly two full weeks of preparation in Braves camp. That certainly could have played a part in that he managed just two hits in his first 36 at-bats of the regular season.

Can’t make fun of Bowman for clinging to this, because I’m tempted to do the same. Orlando, work your magic.

After those first 36 at-bats, he managed to hit .272 over the remainder of a season in which he also contributed 29 homers. His 103 RBIs allowed him to join Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews as the only players in franchise history to record a 100-RBI season before their 23rd birthday.

Let’s, ah. Leave Hank and Eddie out of this for now, Mark.

“I’ve really become more of a man and matured a little more,” Francoeur said. “So I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens.”

OK, Frenchy, whatever works. As long as you’ve learned from your mistakes at the plate last year, I’m behind you and your maturity all the way.

“I haven’t even paid attention to anybody who has talked about patience or anything like that,” Francoeur said. “I’m going to play like I play. That’s how I have fun and enjoy the game. I’ll learn as I go.”

Oh. Well, shit.

Still, hey. I love baseball and I want the Braves to do well, but as a student of marketing, it would be interesting to see how they handle – aw forget it, Frenchy, COME THE FUCK ON!

In other official site news, we have the always delightful Braves notes, this edition including:

-Thor described as a “cool Canadian”

-An anecdote from Chuckie about people who tell him he looks a lot smaller in real life

-Notification that Pete has shaved his head, and this marvelous quote from him:

“A baseball season is like a soap opera,” Van Wieren said. “It’s a continuing story. If you miss one episode of the soap opera, sometimes it takes you three or four days to catch up to figure out exactly what’s going on.”

No kidding, Pete! This kind of understanding is the reason I love him. I’ve gotten my Fan Fest sneak peek, now bring on the real drama, Braves.

Published by Jenny

a.k.a.: Velcro Vernacular <info@talkingchop.com>

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