One of the best few minutes I spent watching a high school game came just over 11 years ago.
I was working in Marietta and Lassiter, and Parkview were playing for the Class AAAAA state baseball championship. I had one of my writers, who covered Lassiter and also headed up our prep baseball coverage, at the game. I decided to slip out of the office to catch a little bit of the game.
I got there and the press was situated on top of the Lassiter dugout. The coach, Mickey McMurty, was one of the most cooperative and welcoming guys in the business, and a pretty fair baseball coach to boot.
What I really wanted to see was the Parkview superstar, Jeff Francoeur, in action. I asked what he had done already. Seth, my guy, Todd, then the sports editor at the Gwinnett paper and now its editor, and Michael from the AJC said he’s homered and doubled.
It was 4-4 in the top of the seventh inning of the first game. Lassiter trotted out a relief pitcher I knew nothing about and I asked Seth who this kid was and he didn’t know much about him either. Francoeur was leading off and we guessed that Lassiter would pitch around the star slugger.
The first pitch was low and away for ball one. We felt secure in our predictions.
The next pitch was just above the ankles, over the middle of the plate. It wound up smacking off a pine tree 440 feet away from home plate. Francoeur then pitched the bottom of the seventh for the save.
I left to go back to the office and in the nightcap, the Braves draft pick hit two more homers and got the win on the mound. That was four home runs, a double, six runs batted, a win and a save in the championship series of the state’s highest classification.
When I saw he was designated for assignment last week by the Kansas City Royals, even with the paltry numbers he’s produced over the last few years, it was still rather shocking. And from what Todd told us, the Francoeurs were as genuinely good as people as you would ever want to meet. The kid that was too good to be true was in fact true to the descriptions.
He has since signed on with the Fresno Grizzlies, a minor league team in the San Francisco Giants’ chain.
Francoeur is the best high school athlete I ever saw, and I’ve seen a lot, up to and including Champ Bailey, Boss Bailey and a three-time member of the U.S. Olympic women’s basketball team. I hope he gets back to the big leagues soon, because don’t you want someone who really does fit the good guy image to get rewarded every now and then?