Bulls

Franklin will leave a great legacy

744680.png

Franklin will leave a great legacy

Simeon baseball coach Leroy Franklin will retire after the 2013 season. After a little nudging and cajoling, he admits he is 70 years old. He isn't into fishing or hunting. Instead, he'll gather his grandchildren and go watch his former players compete in college.

"Why retire? I can't do it forever," Franklin said."I've done a real good job and it's time for me to go. I promised myself that I'd go out with the class of 2013.

"It's tougher to coach today. There are so many distractions, so many gang problems, so many other issues. I'm not from Chicago. This is a town where you have basketball, basketball, basketball. When I grew up in New Orleans, we played football, basketball and baseball and ran track. But in most schools in Chicago, kids are just playing basketball."

At Simeon, where the football and basketball teams have ranked among the most successful in the state since 1981, the year that Franklin became head baseball coach, he hasn't had to take a back seat to anyone. He has carved a niche for himself and built an identity for his program.

Since 1981, Franklin has won over 80 percent of his games, over 700 victories in all. His teams finished fourth in state in 1983, 1990 and 1998.They have won seven Public League championships, including 2012, and finished second on eight occasions.

He has produced 25 players who have been selected in the major league draft, including catcherpitcher Blake Hickman this year. Three were drafted in 1984 and 1989, four in 1990. Wes Chamberlain was his only major leaguer. Jeff Jackson was the Player of the Year and the fourth overall pick in the1989 draft. Shawn Livesey was picked in the first round in 1991. Two current underclassmen, Darius Day and Corey Ray, project to be future draftees.

Jackson was a five-tool player and, skill-wise, the best Franklin ever produced even though Chamberlain had a six-year career in the major leagues with the Phillies and Red Sox. Jackson spent nine years in the minor leagues but never managed to earn a spot on a major league roster.

"I'm very disappointed that Jackson didn't make it to the major leagues," Franklin said. "As a pro, you have to eat and sleep baseball, no time off. You have to think baseball every day of the year."

More importantly, in his view, at least 60 of his former players went on to play baseball in college and graduated with degrees. Assistant coaches Robert Fletcher and Reginald Barker are former players and college graduates. Five members of his current squad recently were inducted into the Simeon chapter of the National Honor Society.

Franklin's formula for winning wasn't copied from a book on nuclear physics. He simply played the best players, whether they are freshmen or sophomores or juniors or seniors. No favorites. If you are disciplined, work hard, show up for class and practice and have a love for the game, you'll earn a spot on his roster.

"Allen Iverson couldn't have played for me," he said, referring to Iverson's one-time comment that he didn't take practice seriously. "If you don't practice, you don't play."

He stresses discipline, hard work, practice and fundamentals. He coaches in stations...bunting, hitting, throwing, pitching, catching, and running. He gets all of his kids involved in the drills and instills in them, that each of them, can be the best. They might not be, he admits, but they must try to be the best.

"The reason we won all these years is I played the best kids," he said."I made it clear there were no favorites. You have to have discipline. You have to do as well as you can in school. You must want to play the game. And we encourage them to go to college. If you are doing those things, you can't go wrong."

That's the way Franklin was raised in his native New Orleans. He made his high school baseball team but didn't play very much, mostly in the summer. At Grambling State, he majored in physical education.

"Most of my high school buddies played baseball at Grambling. I had a scholarship offer to Xavier University in New Orleans but they said to me: 'Why don't you come along?' I was young and foolish and having fun. I did the right thing. I stayed in school and graduated," he said.

After graduation, a friend persuaded him to go to Chicago. He got a teaching job at Betsy Ross elementary school on the South Side. In 1975, he was asked to coach the fresh-soph baseball team at Simeon. He was elevated to the head coaching position in 1981. When he looked around him, with Al Scott coaching football and Bob Hambric coaching basketball, Franklin knew Simeon was on its way to building a monster of a sports program.

"The main thing to be successful is to get kids and be organized," he said. "You've got to get kids who want to do their schoolwork and are disciplined and work hard and want to be something. You can find them. I've had kids who were troubled and had personal problems and we worked with them and they ended up doing well in school and went to college and graduated."

"I always want to help kids, not give up on them, keep them off the streets, keep them in school. I was raised that way. I know it's tougher today because of so many distractions. But I encourage kids to play all sports. But don't forget about baseball. I remind them not to just play baseball but you're playing to get to college."

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Are the playoffs in sight for the Bulls?

bulls-stl-pod-115.jpg
USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Are the playoffs in sight for the Bulls?

On this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Seth Gruen and Ben Finfer join Chuck Garfien on the panel.

The Bulls win again. Do they dare think playoffs? Vincent Goodwill joins the guys to discuss.

Plus, they debate where the “Minneapolis Miracle” ranks amongst the greatest plays in NFL playoff history and if Tom Ricketts is right to say that Sammy Sosa needs to put everything on the table to rejoin the Cubs family.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Humorous things we learned at Cubs Convention

Humorous things we learned at Cubs Convention

One of the best things about Cubs Convention is the access fans and media have to the team and the state of mind the players possess in mid-January.

At this point, they’ve had time away from the field to rest and relax with their family and friends and as Anthony Rizzo says “no one is oh for four yet.” While workouts are in full swing, few have started hitting or pitching at this point in their off-season schedule, so “baseball talk” is not always priority. Instead, this is when we get to hear fun stories and entertaining tidbits about these players.

It’s no secret this team genuinely enjoys being around one and other and that the camaraderie is on full display for fans as they interact and poke fun at one and other during the question and answer panels. So, for those that may have missed the weekend’s festivities here are a few humorous things we learned about the Cubs:

  • When asked about a celebrity crushes, Anthony Rizzo coaxed Javier Baez into a J-Lo response while Kyle Schwarber weighed out his options before coming up with Katy Perry. That was “until she shaved her hair off and now looks like Eleven from Stranger Things!”
  • Schwarber’s name has consumed the recent headlines following his physical transformation this winter, but he isn’t the only Cub who dropped some weight this off-season. Those that got a picture or autograph from Ian Happ over the weekend should have noticed a slimmer physique as well. Happ told me “you have to look and feel your best for your first full season.” And when it comes to all the trade rumors involving his name, he said he’s been too busy golfing and working out this offseason to pay any attention.
  • During a one-on-one interview with new Cubs starter Tyler Chatwood, he gave us his best scouting report on himself, “four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, I’ll throw my curveball a lot more. That’s always been my best pitch and I kind of got away from it a little bit, but I’m going to be throwing that a lot more. Cutter and a changeup, too. So, you know, try to trick them with something.” And when asked which Cubs player he’s most interested in meeting, his response was Kris Bryant. “Just watching him it seems like he does everything cool.”
  • Addison Russell recalled his favorite memory or most funny moment of 2017 as the exchange with Nacho Man. Bringing Cubs and Cardinals fans together over nacho cheese and selfies. The All-Star shortstop also informed us that if he weren’t playing major league baseball, his fallback would be, a dart player. That’s right.
  • After being left off the panel of last year’s Kids Only Press Conference, Anthony Rizzo asked to be the host this year. “It’s my favorite event of the weekend,” Rizzo said. The Cubs first baseman did a tremendous job, toeing the line between appropriate parent/child humor. And after a few minutes of trash talking with Kris Bryant, Rizzo conceded that the younger Bryzzo partner would likely beat him in a one-on-one pickup game. Something I’m sure we’ll see a few weeks from now in Mesa at Spring Training.
  • And last, but certainly not least, Willson Contreras stole the weekend as he recalled the best defensive play of 2017 being Jon Lester’s pickoff of Tommy Pham. “I went out there and said hey motherfu**** throw the ball to first.” A moment that left his teammates on stage shaking their heads in disbelief. But our takeaway: the young, fiery catcher is not intimidated working with the veteran lefty, and he’s just the guy you want behind the plate for this experienced rotation.

After an easy going weekend full of laughs and selfies, the players now buckle in and turn their attention to spring training, with pitchers and catchers reporting to Mesa in less than a month.