Braves' Francoeur thrilled about ceremony

Jeff Francoeur knows exactly who has done the most for Parkview baseball.

The Atlanta Braves outfielder may be the most famous Panther alum, but he considers longtime baseball coach Hugh Buchanan the central figure in the rise of the Parkview program. Buchanan, the Panthers' first baseball coach, held that position from 1976 to 2004 and led the team to three state titles.

Because he holds Buchanan in such high esteem, that only makes what is happening Monday more special for Francoeur.

Prior to the 7 p.m. varsity game vs. Brookwood, Parkview is retiring Francoeur's No. 12 jersey, where it will hang on the outfield wall alongside No. 20, Buchanan's coaching jersey.

"It's a big honor, especially when the one person who has his jersey retired is Coach Buch," said Francoeur, who also is throwing out Monday's first pitch. "It's something that's pretty neat. I'm looking forward to having my jersey retired with him. It's nice to have something left behind at Parkview. As much as people think I did stuff for Parkview, Parkview did a lot for me, too."

Francoeur, who also played on two state championship football teams, led the Panthers to state baseball titles his final two seasons in 2001 and 2002. He was at his best in the big games.

In the state finals in 2001 and 2002, he was a combined 11-for-14 (.786) with seven home runs and 13 RBIs. In his last state final series vs. Lassiter, he was 6-for-7 with four home runs and seven RBIs. He also appeared in both games as a relief pitcher, earning victories in both Game 1 and Game 2.

He signed a football scholarship with Clemson as a high school senior, but turned it down when the Braves made him a first-round pick and gave him a record $2.2 million signing bonus.

He made his major-league debut in 2005, hitting .300 and gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated after a blazing start to his career. He started every game of the 2006 season, just the fourth Brave to accomplish that feat. He hit 29 home runs and had 103 RBIs last season.

The Brookwood-Parkview junior varsity baseball game is at 4 p.m. Monday, followed by varsity warm-ups and field preparation. Parkview baseball coach Chan Brown said he hopes to have the ceremony start around 6:45 p.m.

A large crowd is expected for the night, so Brown has encouraged fans to arrive early to honor the former Parkview star.

"Honestly from the standpoint as a player and a person, I've never met anybody like him who's brought so much to the community," Brown said of Francoeur. "Just by being who he is basically. Jeff's just Jeff. He's awesome to be around. Everyone loves watching him play baseball, but seeing what kind of person he is you see why everyone likes him so much."