Pranking Frenchy

Jeff Francouer isn’t the first player to fall for the teammate-who-pretends-to-be-deaf prank – but now, he’s the most famous.

The longtime Major League Baseball veteran, trying to catch on with the Padres via their AAA-affiliate El Paso Chihuahuas, was the trusting victim in an elaborate 3-week prank  documented in the viral video, “On Jeff Ears.”

In one week, the film had over a million views on YouTube.

Infielder Cody Decker was the documentarian behind-the-camera but those familiar with Decker’s manager knew right away this had all the makings of a Pat Murphy Production.

“It was a team thing,” said Murphy.

“Cody is a talented dude. He turned it into something extra. It was something we do within the team. It worked especially when you’re spoofing the biggest celebrity on the team; he spent a lot of years in the big leagues.”

In the hoax, Francouer was told his teammate Jorge Reyes was hearing-impaired. The catch? Reyes is not deaf. Not even slightly.

“The catcher, Adam Moore, would go to the mound and talk to Jorge. ‘Frenchy’ (Francouer’s nickname) would be in the outfield — he’d ask us how Adam talks to him. We’d say with a straight face, ‘You just mouth the words to him.’

“It’s the same prank we do every year. You have to set it up right. You got to have a pitcher is the one who’s deaf; it wouldn’t work with the other way.”

In Murphy’s first year in pro ball, Eugene’s Mykal Stokes was on the receiving end. Greg Gonzalez played the pretend-deaf role. There were a few times the ruse was almost up.

“One guy was wearing a headset. He stuck his head in my office and said,

What’s with his headset?’ Murphy quickly improvised, ‘Those are headsets for the deaf. He can hear vibrations.’”

After pulling a variation of the joke with each of his teams, this year’s version (thanks to the Decker video) hit the big time.

Murphy is sensitive to the fact maybe not everyone is laughing.

“We’ve taken a little bit of heat with not being politically correct. We don’t make fun of the deaf. We just play up the naivete of people,” said Murphy, who self-admittedly isn’t above some juvenile hijinks to keep spirits up.

“This profession is such a grind, especially PCL travel. We traveled this morning. Got in at 1 AM. We play tonight. The grind is so great, you gotta keep it light for them.”

Murphy says Francouer took his new-found infamy “like a pro” and the prank is officially retired.

“Now that we’ve made it a national thing; we’ll never have to do it again. Now everybody knows.”

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