x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Players on the Triple A minor-league affiliate of the San Diego Padres pulled off one of the most elaborate pranks in years, hatching a plot to convince a new outfielder that one of his teammates was hard of hearing, writes Steve Elling.

Former Cleveland Indians right fielder Jeff Francoeur joined a minor-league affiliate for the San Diego Padres and he was not there long before he fell victim to a team hoax. AP Photo/Mark Duncan
Former Cleveland Indians right fielder Jeff Francoeur joined a minor-league affiliate for the San Diego Padres and he was not there long before he fell victim to a team hoax. AP Photo/Mark Duncan

Sometimes, to fight the tedium of a six-month season, players create their own entertainment.

With that in mind, players on the Triple A minor-league affiliate of the San Diego Padres pulled off one of the most elaborate pranks in years, hatching a plot to convince a new outfielder that one of his teammates was hard of hearing.

The plot began when the El Paso Chihuahuas signed outfielder Jeff Francoeur, a veteran of several big-league teams, late in spring training after he failed to find a roster spot with the major-league Cleveland Indians.

So Francoeur, 30, did not know many of his future teammates when he reported to El Paso in late March.

The con job was hatched – and Francoeur fell for it to such a degree that he was trying to communicate with pitcher Jorge Reyes by using his pantomimed hand signals and mouthing words.

All along, coaches, players and team officials knew it was an elaborate hoax. At one point, when several players went to dinner with Francoeur in tow, they bribed a waitress to pretend that Reyes had a severe hearing issue.

“It’s pretty amazing that somebody could go that long without knowing the truth,” teammate Kyle Blanks said, laughing.

Blanks and several other players were interviewed in a hilarious video, filmed and edited by a teammate, that quickly went viral when it was posted this week. Included in the seven-minute clip is a snippet from Francoeur, commenting in oblivious sincerity about the obstacles that Reyes had to overcome to succeed as a deaf player.

One by one, the coaches and players in the video verbally jab Francoeur for falling for the gag, all in good fun. The title of the film: “On Jeff Ears.”

The good-natured Francoeur finally learned of the hoax in front of the entire team, an episode that also was filmed and included in the video posting.

“A complete, utter idiot,” outfielder Ryan Jackson said.

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