Fans turn out to sign goodbye banner for Francoeur

Phyllis Davis says it's the Atlanta Braves' players that keep her watching the baseball team, not their win-loss record.

For her it's the personalities playing at Turner Field that foster her love of the franchise. So naturally she's upset that her favorite Brave, Jeff Francoeur, is no longer part of the organization.

"You take pride in (athletes) from Gwinnett," Davis said. "Especially the younger ones you watched play in high school and then professionally. I take pride in (Jeff) as an individual and I take pride in his accomplishments."

Davis, a Lawrenceville resident, came to the Daily Post offices on Wednesday to sign a banner wishing the right fielder the best in New York, where he plays for the Mets after being traded on Friday. The banner, which is available to be signed from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. today in the Daily Post lobby, will be presented to Francoeur and his family tonight when the Braves host the Mets.

Fans stopped by throughout the day leaving messages of encouragement on the banner provided by Sign-A-Rama of Lawrenceville. Many used it as a way to thank Francoeur for his positive representation of the community on and off the diamond during his time with the Braves.

"You appreciate the caliber of person he is," Davis said. "We need more of that in baseball."

Joyce Rutledge arrived to sign the banner in a white Braves T-shirt bearing Francoeur's name and No. 7.

"I'm going to miss him in right field," she said.

Rutledge, who lives in Buford, has been an Atlanta resident since 1961 and a Braves fan since, she said, "the days of Bob Horner and Dale Murphy."

Those showing their appreciation for Francoeur made it clear that his past as an all-state baseball and football player at Parkview High School cements his reputation as a local legend.

"We went to a lot of (Jeff's) high school games," Bob Madonia of Lilburn said. "(The) state championship games up at Lassiter when he hit all those home runs."

Madonia referred to Francoeur's unbelievable performance during his senior year at Parkview. He led the Panthers to back-to-back Class AAAAA baseball championships in 2001 and 2002, had a career batting average of .443 and hit 55 home runs in high school. He also led Parkview to back-to-back state crowns in football.

"One of the best things about this move (to the Mets) is he went back to his old number, 12, (from wearing 7 with Atlanta) which he had so much success with in high school," Madonia said. "Baseball players sometimes believe in superstitions."

Gayle Price visited the Daily Post after her son, Donald Johnson, told her about the banner for Francoeur, whom he played high school football with. Price couldn't pass up the chance to wish Francoeur well.

"I was sad about (the trade)," the Lawrenceville resident said. "But knowing Jeff the way I do, I just know wherever he goes he'll do well."

Edna Free of Lilburn knew Francoeur before his days as a standout at Parkview. She used to work in the front office of Trickum Middle School and has known Francoeur since he was a student there.

"He was very nice, always yes ma'am and no ma'am," she said. "He was just good. He always listened and he always talked to people. Nothing can beat his smile."