Jeff Francoeur could write a book about making friends and influencing people in the bleachers at Oakland Athletics games.
Francoeur, an outfielder for the Kansas City Royals, had 20 pizzas delivered Wednesday afternoon to fans sitting in the right-field grandstand at the Oakland Coliseum. He also sent along a signed bat, with a personal message inscribed. That's quite a gift package. To what did the Oakland folks owe such generosity? Why in the name of another Jeff — Spicoli — would he buy them pizzas?
The unorthodox acquaintance of a visiting slugger and some East Bay baseball crazies began a season ago when a group in the bleachers decided to celebrate "Bacon Tuesday" by bringing homemade bacon-flavored eats to the ballpark. With the Royals in town, fans also made Francoeur the target of good-natured heckling (being the right fielder, he was closest to them). Inevitably, the memes collided. Francoeur got along so well with the crowd — he would wave, shout back at them, and laugh along — that after the game he went over for a meet and greet.
Make that a meat and greet. Someone had saved Francoeur a plate of bacon goodies. And, apparently, Jeff Francoeur loves bacon. (He's an American, isn't he?)
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The next night, after spotting his new BFFs, he threw a signed baseball into the stands with a $100 bill wrapped in a rubber band (maybe you thought I'd say "wrapped in bacon"?) As the Hardball Times reported, the note read:
"Beer or Bacon Dog on me. Jeff Francoeur."
All for a plate of bacon and some friendly conversation. Well, Tuesday night was the second annual Bacon Tuesday, so the food got really elaborate and somebody made T-shirts with Francoeur's name on them, claiming him to be the event's "sponsor." At some point, Francoeur stopped by again and fans gave him treats — perhaps some chocolate bacon, bacon cheesecake or bacon jalapeño poppers — along with a shirt. He was happier than a pig in slop as he showed off the shirt to teammates. Reporter Joel Goldberg of FSN Kansas City has done a lot of legwork on this:
On Wednesday, Francoeur paid back the fans again. It was pizza delivery time, along with a bat, again signed by Francoeur:
"RF Bleachers, keep cooking Bacon, Jeff Francoeur"
A classic and classy move, and he didn't make the mistake that selfish Spicoli made in "Fast Times" by getting pizza delivered for just himself. After all, Frenchy was on "our time," wasn't he?
You know, the world has made a lot of fun of Jeff Francoeur because he'll swing at anything and sometimes we have no idea where his next throw will land. But he's exactly the kind of ballplayer I'd love to root for. He obviously loves playing the game, feels rewarded interacting with the fans, and eats his share of bacon. That's a wonderful combination of qualities, isn't it?
And A's fans collectively don't have the greatest reputation. Usually it's for not showing up at games at their sketchy ballpark — to the point that ownership wants to pull up stakes and move them out of town. But if that means fans like these wouldn't go to games anymore, it would be a shame.
You know, they never bought beer or bacon dogs with Francoeur's money. Just a case to keep the ball in, with the money still attached. It's too bad they get painted with a broad brush, because these A's fans are witty enough, enthusiastic enough and, doggone it, Jeff Francoeur likes them. And, bacon.
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