Cubs

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."

Glanville: Fall to Spring - A player’s offseason changes meaning with each changing season

glanville_oct_21.jpg
USA TODAY

Glanville: Fall to Spring - A player’s offseason changes meaning with each changing season

A few weeks after the we (the Cubs) were eliminated from the 2003 playoffs, I got a phone call from my college professor. Since it was officially the off-season, I was in the early stages of a break from following a pocket schedule to tell me where to be every day for nearly eight months.

But this was a man I could not refuse. I chose my college major to go into his field of transportation engineering and he was calling because he needed a teaching assistant to accompany him on his trip to South Africa.

One minute I could barely move off of my couch in my Chicago apartment after losing Game 7 against the Marlins. The next minute, I would be standing within miles of the Southern most point in Africa at the Cape of Good Hope. Why not? I needed the distraction so I agreed to go.

The offseason is its own transition. Leaving the regimen of routine, of batting practice and bus times, to an open ended world that you have to re-learn again. When I finished my first full major league season in 1997, I lived in Streeterville at the Navy Pier Apartments.

That offseason, I decided to stay an extra month in Chicago only to wake up panicked for the first two weeks because I thought I was missing stretch time for a home day game. A major league schedule becomes etched in your DNA after a while.

It is also a time that you get to reflect. The regular season does not give you a moment to really get perspective on what was just accomplished, what it all means, what you would change. I always joked about the T-shirt I wanted to a sell that listed all of the things a major league player figures out during the off-season. From the perfect swing to the ex-girlfriend you need to un-break-up with next week.

It all becomes so clear when a 96 MPH fastball isn’t coming at you.

For years, I would arrange a training program to follow, but I quickly learned that I had to mix it up. There was only so much repetition I could stand in the off-season. So some years, I moved to the site of spring training and worked out early with the staff, other years I found a spot at home where I grew up or wherever I played during the season, to train.

I was single when I played, but now with a family, I have a better understanding of the challenges my teammates would express as they were re-engaging as a daily father again after this long absentee existence.

To keep it fresh and spicy, when I got older in the game, I enrolled in a dance studio and took a winter of dance lessons. Salsa, Foxtrot, Rumba, you name it. On Thursdays we had to dance for an hour straight, changing partners in the room every song change. Dancing with the Stars had nothing on me.

Of course, not every offseason is fun and games. There were years when I wasn’t sure I would have a job the next year, or I was in the throes of a trade rumor. In 1997, I was traded from the Cubs to the Phillies two days before Christmas. In 2002, my father passed away on the last game of the season, leading the offseason to be a time of mourning.

By my final season in 2005, I thought I was officially on my couch forever. I was going to fade away into oblivion like many players do. No fanfare, the phone just would stop ringing and I would just let the silence wash over me. The Yankees had called earlier in that off-season, acting like they were doing me a favor which I turned down, then they called back later with a more open tone, seeing me as a potential key piece in their outfield with Bernie Williams slowing down quite a bit at that point.

I did get off that couch for that call, only to get released the last week of camp, so I was back on the couch, with a fiancé and some extra salt in the wounds after that final meeting with Brian Cashman and Joe Torre, who boxed me into the coaches office to tell me I was released. Released? Come on. Never had that happen before.

The Cubs players will go through all of this if they have the good fortune of playing a long time. The wave of uncertainty, the meaning of age in this game spares no one. Each offseason is a time to reset, a period where you get away, seemingly adrift from the game, then as spring gets closer, the shoreline comes up in the horizon once again, magnetically drawing you to its shores for another season.

Amazingly, you don’t always know your age and what it has done to your body. 34 can’t be that old, right? I can still run, or throw 95. Then those 23-year-olds in camp are the wake up call, or maybe you are that 23-year-old and can’t believe your locker is next to Ryne Sandberg’s.

Then you blink, and you are advising Jimmy Rollins about etiquette and realize you have become that guy, the seasoned vet, preaching about locker room respect.

For the 2018 Cubs, they fell short of their goal to repeat their 2016 magic. Failed to meet their singular destination that meant success over all else. Yet, those who come back for 2019, will not be the same player, the same person, that left the locker room at the close this season. They will have grown, changed, aged, wizened up, rehabbed, hardened. All of which means that new perspective is the inevitable part of this time off, whether you like it or not.

Baseball is a game that has this unique dynamic. The highest intensity rhythm of any sport. Every day you are tested. You are pushed to the brink by sheer attrition. According to my teammate Ed Smith, who was playing third base at the time when Michael Jordan reached third, Jordan, after playing well over 100 games in a row, said to him “Man, I have never been this tired in my entire life.”

The grind.

Then it stops on a dime. Season over. Only on baseball’s terms.

But you may be granted another spring. Another crack at it. Until one day, the baseball winter never ends and its time for you to plant your own spring.

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

cam_ward_ap.jpg
AP

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center on Sunday:

1. Blackhawks on wrong side of history 

Earlier this year the Blackhawks made history by appearing in five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team in NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB history has ever done.

But Sunday they found themselves on the wrong side of it after allowing 33 shots on goal in the second period alone. It tied a franchise high for most given up in a single period — March 4, 1941 vs. Boston — and is the most an NHL team has allowed since 1997-98 when shots by period became an official stat.

"It's pretty rare to be seeing that much work in a period," said Cam Ward, who had a season-high 49 saves. "But oh man, I don't even know what to say to be honest. It's tough. We know that we need to be better especially in our home building, too. And play with some pride and passion. Unfortunately, it seemed like it was lacking at times tonight. The old cliche you lose as a team and overall as a team we weren't good enough tonight."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was a tough, tough period in all aspects. I don’t think we touched the puck at all and that was the part that was disturbing, against a good hockey team."

2. Alexandre Fortin is on the board

After thinking he scored his first career NHL goal in Columbus only to realize his shot went off Marcus Kruger's shin-pad, Fortin made up for it one night later and knows there wasn't any question about this one.

The 21-year-old undrafted forward, playing in his his fifth career game, sprung loose for a breakaway early in the first period and received a terrific stretch pass by Jan Rutta from his own goal line to Fortin, who slid it underneath Louis Domingue for his first in the big leagues. It's his second straight game appearing on the scoresheet after recording an assist against the Blue Jackets on Saturday.

"It's fun," Fortin said. "I think it would be a little bit more fun to get your first goal [while getting] two points for your team, but I think we ... just have to [turn the page to the] next chapter and just play and be ready for next game."

3. Brandon Saad's most noticeable game?

There weren't many positives to take away from this game, but Saad was certainly one of them. He had arguably his best game of the season, recording seven shot attempts (three on goal) with two of them hitting the post (one while the Blackhawks were shorthanded).

He was on the ice for 11 shot attempts for and five against at 5-on-5, which was by far the best on his team.

"He started OK and got way better," Quenneville said of Saad. "Had the puck way more, took it to the net a couple of times, shorthanded."

4. Special teams still a work in progress

The Blackhawks entered Sunday with the 29th-ranked power play and 25th-ranked penalty kill, and are still working to get out from the bottom of the league in both departments. In an effort to change up their fortunes with the man advantage, the Blackhawks split up their two units for more balance.

They had four power-play opportunities against Tampa Bay and cashed in on one of them, but it didn't matter as it was too little, too late in the third period — although they did become the first team to score a power-play goal against the Lightning this season (29 chances).

"Whether we're looking for balance or we're just looking for one to get hot, I think our power play has been ordinary so far," Quenneville said before the game. "We need it to be more of a threat."

Four more minor penalties were committed by the Blackhawks, giving them eight in the past two games. That's one way they can shore up the penalty kill, by cutting back on taking them.