WASHINGTON -- For one of the first times in his young Major League career, Jeff Francoeur came to work without receiving an inspirational message from Jim Beauchamp. But the Braves' right fielder knew what his good friend and longtime mentor would have said.
"You'd better do something good," Francoeur said, attempting to imitate the gruff coaching voice that Beauchamp used when talking to many of the Braves' top players and prospects during the past two decades.
When the Braves began the 2008 regular season against the Nationals at new Nationals Park on Sunday night, many of the players and coaches were thinking about Beauchamp, who lost his long battle with leukemia in December.
At the same time, they were showing ESPN's national television audience how much Beauchamp meant to them and the organization. On their left sleeves was a patch that simply read "Beach" to honor their lost friend. They'll wear these patches throughout the season.
"It means a lot," said Braves manager Bobby Cox, who spent some time with Beauchamp just before he died. "Everybody knew him as Beach, so that's why we are using that for his name. His name pops up at least once a day among the players and coaches."
Beauchamp was Cox's bench coach in Atlanta from 1991-98. He served as a roving Minor League instructor from 1999-2006 and during that time mentored Francoeur, Brian McCann, Kelly Johnson and many of the other younger players on the current Braves roster.
"He was very influential," Francoeur said. "I don't think a day has gone by during Spring Training when I didn't think about him at some point. It will be cool tonight to start the game with him on our shoulders."
Braves bench coach Chino Cadahia, who was very close with Beauchamp, believed his good friend would have an eye on what the Braves did at the new Nationals Park on Sunday night.
"I know he'll be watching," Cadahia said. "I just hope we make him proud."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.