Even as Met, Francoeur gets fan support

ATLANTA - The older model Jeff Francoeur jerseys, with Braves on the front and No. 7 on the back, were out in full force Thursday night at Turner Field. But so were the newer versions.

Gwinnett-based Colter Sports churned out more than 30 Mets shirts with No. 12 and Francoeur on the back - a rush order since Atlanta traded the hometown hero just six days ago - and that pack of friends gave Francoeur a large, orange rooting section for his first game back in Atlanta since the trade.

"I met (the fans) at the bullpen, out at the corner when they got here, it was like a sea of orange," Francoeur's wife Catie said. "It was like we were back at Parkview."

Catie made sure the family had Mets attire, buying apparel before the All-Star break. She bought four authentic Francoeur game jerseys, one that was worn by Jeff's older sister Heather. Even Jeff's niece had a New York Mets princess shirt on.

Even though she just learned the tomahawk chop.

But she wasn't the only fan having to adjust. Francoeur was one of the Braves' most popular players, both in Gwinnett, where he led Parkview to four state titles in football and baseball, and in metro Atlanta. However, his appeal stretched to Atlanta fans everywhere.

The Harrison family drove all the way from Blountville, Tenn. All four family members, including 8-year-old Jackson and 6-year-old Nicholas, wore Braves jerseys with Francoeur on the back.

"My oldest one, (Francoeur) was his favorite Brave," the boys' mother, Allison Harrison, said. "He was kind of upset when he got traded."

A few fans were already switching allegiances. Shane Mitchell, whose wife Jennifer teaches at Trickum Middle in the Parkview district, wore a Parkview baseball shirt to support Francoeur. He brought his 13-year-old son Michael, who plays baseball at Mountain Park, along for Thursday's game.

The Mitchells have been longtime supporters of the Parkview legend.

"I was looking for a Mets hat," said Mitchell, a 1995 Shiloh grad. "I'm more of a Francoeur fan than I am a Braves fan."

The majority of fans at Thursday's game didn't switch allegiances to the Mets, although they didn't turn their backs on Francoeur, either. The right fielder received a standing ovations when he jogged to his position in the bottom of the first inning, then got a huge standing ovation for his first plate appearance.

That balance was tough for some Braves fans who wanted to see Francoeur do well, but wanted the Braves to win.

"We'd like maybe a 6-5 Braves win, but Jeff hits two homers," said Lilburn's Bob Madonia, whose 10-year-old daughter Madison donned a Parkview baseball shirt.

"No, it wasn't an easy switch (to the Mets)," Jon Weyher, sporting one of the orange Francoeur jerseys, said. "Actually as we were all putting them on, we were talking about how difficult it was."

All the support made for an emotional night for the Dave and Karen Francoeur. They were overwhelmed by the fans' applause to tribute what their son did for the Braves the previous four seasons.

Francoeur may not play for the Braves anymore, but it was evident the fans haven't forgotten him.

"It's still neat to see those No. 7 Braves jerseys," Dave Francoeur said.

Those No. 7 Braves jerseys probably won't disappear any time soon. The production of the Mets jerseys with Francoeur's name on it is just beginning, too.

But those jerseys will feature No. 12 - his high school number at Parkview - since star Jose Reyes wear No. 7 for the Mets.

"(The Mets) offered me 4, 12 and something else," Francoeur said. "When they said 12, it was a pretty easy decision."

His fans also have a decision now - wear the No. 7 or the No. 12. No matter which one they showed up in Thursday night, he was appreciative.

"This was a chance for me to go out and show (the fans) how much I appreciate their support over the years," Francoeur said.