Bears

Franklin will leave a great legacy

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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."

Matt Nagy calls Kevin White a 'great weapon' with a new future

Matt Nagy calls Kevin White a 'great weapon' with a new future

Former first-round pick Kevin White hasn't caught a break -- or a touchdown -- through the first three years of his career. He has more season-ending injuries than 100-yard games and after an offseason focused on upgrades at wide receiver, White's future in Chicago beyond 2018 is very much in doubt.

Ryan Pace declined the fifth-year option in White's rookie contract, making this a prove-it year for the pass-catcher who once resembled a blend of Larry Fitzgerald and Dez Bryant during his time at West Virginia.

He's getting a fresh start by new coach Matt Nagy.

"He is healthy and he's really doing well," Nagy told Danny Kanell and Steve Torre Friday on SiriusXM's Dog Days Sports. "We're trying to keep him at one position right now so he can focus in on that."

White can't take all the blame for his 21 catches, 193 yards and zero scores through 48 possible games. He's only suited up for five. Whether it's bad luck or bad bone density, White hasn't had a legitimate chance to prove, on the field, that he belongs.

Nagy's looking forward, not backward, when it comes to 2015's seventh pick overall.

"That's gone, that's in the past," Nagy said of White's first three years. "This kid has a new future with us."

White won't be handed a job, however.

"He's gotta work for it, he's gotta put in the time and effort to do it," Nagy said. "But he will do that, he's been doing it. He's a great weapon, he's worked really hard. He has great size, good speed. We just want him to play football and not worry about anything else."

Nagy on Trubisky: 'He wants to be the best'

Nagy on Trubisky: 'He wants to be the best'

The Bears concluded their second round of OTAs on Thursday with the third and final set of voluntary sessions scheduled for May 29-June 1. Coach Matt Nagy is bringing a new and complicated system to Chicago, so the time spent on the practice field with the offense and quarterback Mitch Trubisky has been invaluable.

"We’ve thrown a lot at Mitch in the last 2 ½ months,” Nagy told Dog Days Sports’ Danny Kanell and Steve Torre on Friday. “He’s digested it really well.”

Nagy’s implementing the same system he operated with the Chiefs, an offense that brought the best out of Redskins quarterback Alex Smith. The former first-overall pick went from potential draft bust to MVP candidate under Andy Reid and Nagy’s watch.

Nagy admitted he and his staff may have been a little too aggressive with the amount of information thrust upon Trubisky so far.  It took five years to master the offense in Kansas City, he said, but the first-year head coach sees a lot of similarities between his current and past quarterbacks.

"These guys are just wired differently,” Nagy said when comparing Trubisky to Smith. “With Mitch, the one thing that you notice each and every day is this kid is so hungry. He wants to be the best. And he’s going to do whatever he needs to do. He’s so focused.”

Smith had the best year of his career in 2017 and much of the credit belongs to Nagy, who served as Smith’s position coach in each season of his tenure in Kansas City. He threw for eight touchdowns and only two interceptions during the five regular season games that Nagy took over play-calling duties last year.

Nagy said Trubisky has a similar attention to detail that Smith brought to the Chiefs’ quarterback room.

"Each and every detail that we give him means something. It’s not just something he writes down in a book. He wants to know the why,” Nagy said of Trubisky. “He’s a good person that is in this for the right reason. His teammates absolutely love him. It was the same thing with Alex [Smith] in Kansas City.”

A locker room that believes in its quarterback is a critically important variable for success, one that Nagy already sees exists in Chicago.

"When you have that as a coach and when you have that as being a quarterback, not everybody has that, and when you have that you’re in a good spot.”