Patience, Perseverance, and Panthers: What My Childhood Baseball Idol Taught Me About Life
Growing up, I used to love sitting down on the couch and flipping through channels until I found the TBS channel–and for a short time the Peachtree TV channel–where I could watch a group of nine grown men clad in red, white, or gray uniforms with a big tomahawk across their chest play the same sport that I was playing at the time. There were two baseball players that I wanted to emulate more than the rest of the roster: a household name and a local hero.
Every young, baseball playing kid born between the late 1980s and early 2000s here in Braves country wanted to be like one specific Braves player more than the rest: Larry Wayne Jones, Jr., better known by fans as Chipper. A first ballot Hall of Fame player and arguably one of the best players to have ever stepped foot on a baseball field, Chipper was the face of baseball’s oldest continually running franchise for nearly two decades, giving young boys like myself a professional player to strive to play like. While I certainly wanted to be like Chipper, there is another former Braves player from my childhood, whose career on and off the field has taught me a lot about patience and perseverance.
As a kid playing baseball in Stone Mountain, your dream was to play your high school baseball in the orange and blue at Parkview before moving on up to Turner Field (now Truist Park) to play for your hometown Atlanta Braves. Very few tee-ball players get to the major leagues, and even fewer have the opportunity to play in front of their hometown crowd. In fact, only two Parkview graduates have played a regular season game in a Braves uniform. One of them is current Braves first baseman Matt Olson, and the other is the Braves’ 2002 first round draft pick and current television broadcaster, Jeff Francoeur.
A two-sport athlete for the Panthers, Francoeur was actually committed to play football at Clemson before the Braves selected him with the 23rd overall pick in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft. He quickly rose through the ranks of the Braves’ minor-league system, being named the number one prospect in the team’s system and subsequently placed on the cover of the August 29, 2005 issue of Sports Illustrated, with the words “The Natural” in bold lettering across the middle of the cover page. Despite only making his debut in July of the same year, Francoeur finished in 3rd place in the 2005 Rookie of the Year voting. He followed up his rookie campaign with a sophomore season that saw him hit 29 home runs, 103 runs batted in, receive his first career ejection, and join an elite club as only the 4th player to play in all 162 games in a Braves uniform. His numbers began to decline, however, and Francoeur was traded to the Mets in July of 2009.
After being traded from the Braves, Francoeur never really found another ballclub to call home. He spent the next 7 seasons playing for 8 different teams, with many of those moves being made during the season. After each trade, release, or other hiccup, Francoeur could have given up and returned back to Lilburn to join his parents, brother, and sister in the family profession of teaching (he said during an interview as a young player in 2007 that if he were not playing baseball his job of choice would be teaching and coaching high school football). Instead, however, he persevered, extending his MLB career to a mark not often reached by players: a decade. And during those offseasons, when it seemed like no team was going to sign him, Francoeur exercised patience, being rewarded each time.
The player who used to show up at my little league ballpark during breaks in the MLB season to watch his little brother umpire now spends his days at Truist Park, but rather than showing up 4 hours early to the clubhouse in preparation for a game, he now gets to show up around that time and head up to the broadcast booth. Additionally, his strong work with the local broadcast team has given him the opportunity to sit in the broadcast booth for Turner Broadcasting’s national coverage of MLB Playoffs. Oh, and he was given a World Series ring by the Braves organization this year for his hard work in the booth (and I was given one for my hard work all year in Section 418, Row 4, Seats 7 and 8). While we won’t all be professional baseball players, we can all stand to learn a thing or two about patience and perseverance from someone. And for me, that someone just so happened to be Jeff Francoeur.
Thanks for reading,
Functionize Front Office Coordinator and soon to be GSU Law Student
Born in Nashville, raised in Atlanta, and brought up on the baseball diamond, Nick has always had an interest in the livelihood of athletes. When a professional sports career was not in the cards for Nick, he shifted his focus to helping out athletes in whatever ways he could. When he is not in the office you can find him at the boxing gym, in the batting cages, on the golf course, or in his recording studio (a.k.a. bedroom) writing, recording, and producing music for himself and his former college band, Cablebox.