He won’t be managing the Double-A Trenton Thunder in 2015, but Tony Franklin is excited about what the Yankees offered him for the upcoming season.
Franklin, a Los Angeles resident who won three Eastern League titles and two additional division crowns with the Thunder, mentioned Gary Denbo, the Yankees’ Vice President of Player Development, offered him a challenging position.
“They want me to be a roving evaluator, instructor all through the system,” said Franklin. “A lot of my work will be in the lower minors. There is a switch in philosophy, where the Yankees want more-experienced people in the lower minors.
“And, as it was announced today (Thursday), they want me to manage our new Appalachian Rookie League team in Pulaski, Va. “I’m really energized by this Really, I felt honored to be offered this by Gary. I’ll do whatever I can to help make the Yankees organization as strong as it can be.”
In Pulaski, Franklin will be joined by two of his former Trenton players, Justin Pope, a past manager at Staten Island, and Edwar Gonzalez, on his staff. The Appalachian League season, which consists of 68 games, does not open until June 23, so Franklin will travel the system and spend time in Extended Spring Training before the P-Yankees break camp.
“I’ll go to spring training, then rove through the system, with stops in Extended Spring Training before Pulaski,” Franklin, 64, confirmed. I’m excited. I’ve never had a chance to do that in the Yankees system. I’ll go wherever they want me to,”
And that will likely include a trip to Trenton prior to the start of the Appalachian season.
“We have to keep building and get all levels of the system back on track,” said Franklin. “I’m glad to be a key part of that.”
That switch in experience can also be seen on the Class-A Advanced Tampa staff, where Dave Bialas brings over a decade of managerial expertise and Tommy Phelps moves from Trenton to be the T-Yanks pitching coach. Franklin will be a perfect mentor to help young prospects such as shortstop Jorge Mateo adjust to playing in the United States.
“This will be an important step for a player like Mateo,” Franklin said. “It’s always good for young players like that to learn how it is to perform in front of crowds. The Appalachian League is an excellent place to start that for some of these young players.”
Since the Appalachian League does not open until after the June draft, the Pulaski roster could also include recently signed former high-school or college signees selected this spring.
Franklin said he already has talked to Pulaski general manager Mike Fintel, who is equally excited to have what he called “an esteemed manager” in Thursday’s announcement.
“We are privileged to have such an esteemed manager as Tony Franklin in Pulaski, ” said Fintel. “The level of experience behind Tony and his coaching staff will provide for an exciting year at Calfee (Park, the renovated Pulaski stadium).”
Franklin admitted he got a bit nostalgic when he discussed his 2015 assignment with Denbo.
“I really enjoyed my eight years in Trenton,” he said. “The franchise, the fans, the town were great to me. It really made my job easy.
When informed there are three excellent golf courses in the Pulaski area, Franklin, an avid fan of the links, was pleased.
“I do like the game,” he said, “At times it takes your mind off things and you can relax.”
Denbo is making some good moves by placing more experienced personnel in the lower levels if the system. His belief is the overall development picture will be stronger with people such as Franklin and Pope working with the younger players.
“I’m just glad to help where they feel I’m needed.”
One spot happens to be in Southwest Virginia.