What do you get a bonus baby, big-league baseball player for Christmas that he doesn't already have? Parkview High School came up with a unique present for Jeff Francoeur, announcing on Tuesday that the school will retire his number during a ceremony next baseball season.
Head baseball coach Chan Brown said Parkview will honor the Atlanta Braves star before the Panthers' game with Brookwood on April 9. Francoeur's No. 12 will be retired and a replica of his Parkview jersey will grace the left-field wall near one of his former coach, Hugh Buchanan.
"To have (my jersey) out there on the wall with Coach Buck is quite an honor," Francoeur said. "It means a lot that a place that has meant so much to me is doing this. It's neat to think that even when I'm done playing ball my jersey will still be up there."
Brown said he and Buchanan worked together to honor Francoeur, who continues to give back to the program through talking to the team and donating money and equipment. A two-sport star, Francoeur graduated in 2002, leading the Panthers to back-to-back state titles in both football and baseball as a junior and senior.
"We've had a lot of successful people come through Parkview," said Buchanan, who retired after the 2004 season. "We've had NFL football players, Olympic swimmers, World Cup and Olympic soccer players and doctors and lawyers come through the school.
"But I can't recall anybody galvanizing the community quite like (Francoeur) has. It's just a special thing."
Francoeur hit 29 home runs and drove in 103 runs this past season for the Braves after bursting onto the scene as a rookie in 2005. He hit a home run in his first game for the Braves, bringing back memories of his high school days when he always had a flair for the dramatic.
As a senior he pitched Parkview to a pair of wins and was 6-for-7 with four home runs - including a grand slam in his final high school at-bat - in the state championship series. As a junior, he hit three homers in two games to lead the Panthers to the title.
He hit a county-record 55 home runs during his career, batting .443 with 164 RBIs during his four years as a starter.
But Brown said the honor covers more than just Francoeur's garish stats.
"It's just who he is," Brown said of what distinguishes Francoeur in addition to his talent. "He hasn't forgotten where he's come from, and I don't think he ever will.
"The whole community loves him."
Francoeur said it's fitting that his jersey would be retired before a game with Brookwood, Parkview's archrival.
"I think that's hilarious. I wouldn't want it at any other game," he said. "I just want to thank the school and the community. People say I've done a lot for the school and community, but sometimes what gets lost is the school and the community have done a lot for me."