Kansas City right fielder Jeff Francoeur is a man with many opinions, a pretty decent bat and a heck of an arm.
He has hit 114 home runs, driven in 526 runs and batted for a .268 career average during his seven seasons in Major League Baseball.
With his strong arm, he already has 11 outfield assists this season. That is tied for the most assists (with Torii Hunter) by a right fielder in the majors so far this year. He recorded 19 assists in right field in 2007.
Nicknamed “Frenchy,” Francoeur recently spoke with The Eagle-Tribune about Pete Rose, making the All-Star game more exciting and much more:
Smitty: If heard you would have wanted to be a high school football coach if you weren’t a baseball player. True?
Francoeur: Absolutely. I love football. I signed to play football (free safety/strong safety) at Clemson. So I’ve always played both sports and loved it. My whole family is in education. They’re all teachers. So I’ve always said I want to be a teacher and high school football coach.
Smitty: What kind of teacher would you be?
Francoeur: Probably math. I was a decent math student.
Smitty: What did you do better on in the SATs: math or English?
Francoeur: Math. I blew the math away and in English I (stunk).”
Smitty: So you must have been quite the high school football player?
Francoeur: Yeah, yeah. So I love football. I went to a big high school. We’d get 12-15,000 (fans) a game on Friday nights. So football’s always fun.
Smitty: What high school did you attend?
Francoeur: Parkview High School in Atlanta.
Smitty: You started your career out with the Atlanta Braves. Was it disappointing to get traded away from the hometown team?
Francoeur: It was neat (getting to play for the hometown team). But it was also cool (getting traded) because you get to see other places. I got to play in New York. I got to play in the World Series last year with Texas. It’s tough playing at home sometimes. There’s a lot of pressure. And a lot of ticket requests — and this and that. So for me, it was fun doing it but it is also fun to be able to get away and play for some different places, too.
Smitty: I’m presuming that you once pitched because you have such a strong arm out in the outfield?
Francoeur: I closed for our high school team. But I didn’t have any secondary pitches. Just a straight heater.
Smitty: How fast could you throw that straight heater?
Francoeur: In high school I threw about 94, 95.
Smitty: So did you ever consider developing some secondary pitches and becoming a pro pitcher?
Francoeur: No, I want to play every day. I don’t think I could play just once every five days.
Smitty: Your father originally was from Massachusetts, right?
Francoeur: He’s from Springfield, yeah.
Smitty: So was he a Red Sox fan growing up?
Francoeur: Oh, yeah, and I actually had a Red Sox credit card in high school. I was a Braves and Sox fan growing up. Those were my two teams. I was more of a Braves guy just because I grew up in Atlanta. Dale Murphy was my guy growing up.
Growing up in Atlanta, I used to go to a lot of Braves games and all that. But I always pulled for the Sox because of my dad. My grandpa, he’s passed now, but them two used to ride the train over here (to Fenway Park) and go to a bunch of games when my dad was a kid. So I’d hear stories. So it would be pretty cool.
Smitty: If you could sit down and talk hitting with anybody, who would it be?
Francoeur: For me, I am somewhat of a free-swinger, I probably got that chance last year with Vlad (Guerrero). I always enjoyed talking with him just about everything. But one of my favorite players was Roberto Clemente. So I would have loved to have picked his brain. Loved to watch him play the game, the way he did it. And what an arm he had. So for me, it would probably be him.
Smitty: Should Pete Rose be in the Hall of Fame or not?
Francoeur: I think if you put him in as a player, then he should be in the Hall of Fame. Everything he did was as a coach. It’s just sad for me for our sport that the all-time hits leader and the all-time home run leader (Barry Bonds) and possibly (Roger) Clemens, these guys aren’t going to be in the Hall of Fame. That’s weird. … For me Bonds, he’s the greatest hitter I’ve ever seen.
For me Pete Rose should be in it as a player. He never did anything as a player that screwed it up.
Smitty: Did you call your dad immediately after the 2004 World Series ended and congratulate him for his team winning?
Francoeur: Yeah, yeah. And we always laugh saying that if I played the Red Sox in the World Series, I wonder who my dad would pull for being a diehard (Red Sox) guy. At the same time, it was always fun for me and special to come up here just because of the history of my family — my dad’s whole side being from up here and everything. It’s always fun for them to be able to come see me play here.
Smitty: What is the best hitting advice you’ve ever received and who was it from?
Francoeur: Probably Chipper (Jones). Chipper has such a great approach and is so relaxed at the plate. Just picking his brain and listening to what he says, probably one of the best.
Smitty: What are some ways to make the All-Star Game more exciting?
Francoeur: First of all, I don’t like the idea that it’s (for) home-field advantage (in the World Series). Because the fans vote, there’s some guys that probably deserve to start that don’t start — or are in there. I think if you do that (change it back to not determining home-field advantage), guys will get back to having more fun. For some of these guys, I understand. You’re Adrian Gonzalez out there and you want Game One at Fenway if you’re in the World Series. So guys take it a little more seriously. You don’t see as much joking around like you used to. I remember when Randy Johnson threw over (John) Kruk’s head. I mean, people like that stuff. But you’re not going to see that anymore because of how serious it is now. So I think you’ve got to take that away.