Jeff Francoeur has 140 career home runs in the Major Leagues. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated during his rookie season. He was a Gold Glove recipient in 2007. This season, spending time with the El Paso Chihuahuas after being signed by the San Diego Padres organization, he hit the first homer in the team’s history. And his teammates think he’s an idiot.
That’s what Chihuahuas Ryan Jackson, Jorge Reyes, and Cody Decker call him, anyway, in a viral-sensation video directed by Decker—who also plays first base for the team—that tells the story of how the entire team tricked Francoeur into believing for an entire month that Reyes, a pitcher, is deaf.
Reyes is not deaf, but the team began the prank by warning of a foul ball with a cry of “Heads up!”, to which everyone except Reyes responded. Chihuahuas manager Pat Murphy told Francoeur that Reyes was deaf, and the entire team rallied to maintain the illusion for the ten-year veteran. The video is full of fun footage: Decker gets Francoeur to gush to the camera about how “awesome” Reyes is for overcoming the obstacle of playing baseball as a deaf pitcher, then asks him to speak slowly and ennunciate more fully; Reyes opines about the difficulty of faking it around Francoeur (primarily in not being able to listen to music or wear headphones while traveling with the team for the month that the prank was on); and the team recalls Francoeur joining the rest of the players for dinner at a restaurant, at which both the waitresses and Reyes’ girlfriend had to help keep the gag going. And, eventually, the prank reveals itself, as Decker films Francoeur watching the video with the entire team.
Perhaps the most charming thing about the video is Francoeur’s demeanor. The veteran comes off as extremely likeable and open-hearted, which would almost make the fact that all of his teammates spent a month lying to him about something he had no reason to question seem cruel—except that everyone seems to be having such a good time with the whole thing that it’s hard to root against any of them. Francoeur certainly doesn’t seem like an idiot, and a prank like this is probably good for the team’s morale—and it speaks well to Francoeur as a clubhouse presence, which is something that a veteran whose career is in a bit of a decline could probably use as a part of his reputation.
Meanwhile, of course, there have been deaf players in Major League Baseball: Most recently, Curtis Pride, who retired in 2006 after a fourteen-year career. In the game’s earlier days, William Hoy was the first deaf Major Leaguer, playing fifteen seasons from 1888 to 1902, including the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago White Sox. (Another deaf player, Dick Sipek, also played for the Reds for five months during the 1945 season.)
So while Francoeur’s credulousness may prompt his teammates to rib him as an “idiot”—that’s how he’s credited at the end of the video (Reyes gets “deaf kid”)—it’s also not unprecedented that a deaf player could spend time with a Major League organization.