Every spring training, on one of the fields that make up the Yankees Player Development Complex on Himes Avenue in Tampa, it doesn’t take long to spot Tony Franklin.
Franklin, who will be 66 in June, will return to the Yankees; Appalachian League Rookie affiliate the Pulaski Yankees. The move, expected for weeks, was made official Wednesday.
In Central Florida each March, the scene his always repeated.
“How are you? You are looking good,” Franklin will say from behind a dugout fence.
“We’ll talk later,” is the answer with a smile.
“There is no time like the present,” answers back Franklin. “I’ll come out (from behind the fence), Just give me a second”
Then comes a warn handshake from a gentle man signifying the next baseball season has officially started. It was that way for eight seasons with the Double-A Trenton Thunder, in which Franklin steered his club to five playoff appearances and three Eastern League championships.
“You want a manager to be fair with you, and keep you in the loop,” said catcher John Ryan Murphy, who played for Franklin in Trenton in 2012-13. “He runs a great clubhouse. There are few like him in baseball.”
Several asked why Franklin, with such success at Double-A, was not offered the Triple-A Scranton.Wilkes-Barre job that went to Al Pedrique. The answer is the Yankees, while knowing Franklin would be valuable at the upper levels of the minors feel he is even more valuable handling the younger players at Pulaski.
“He’s just a great guy to be with, so positive, so encouraging,” said infielder Billy Fleming, who started the 2015 season at Pulaski.
The Yankees, with Gary Denbo taking control of the Yankees farm system after the retirement of Mark Newman, the decision was made to put an experienced manager with younger players adapting to playing professional baseball in the United States. Franklin, who certainly would have returned to Trenton in 2015, accepted his new role and embraced it.
On the field, it was status-quo. Pulaski, under Franklin, was 45-23, won the Appalachian League East title by eight games and earned a playoff berth.
“Right now, Pulaski, with the young kids, is the right job for me,” said Franklin. “I enjoy working with them, and it’s a shorter season. I really kind of like that.
“If that is what the Yankees want me to do, I have no issues. We have to give these kids a good foundation, starts them on the right path, teach them what they have to do to advance in the system and have a shot at the major leagues.”
Franklin has seen what has happened to the Yankees system from both the upper and lower levels over the last several seasons.
“The system is a lot stronger and has gotten a lot younger,” he said. “There is a lot of talent in Pulaski to develop. I enjoy that responsibility.”
The Pulaski Yankees seem overjoyed Franklin is coming back. Give him a few more years in Virginia, and he will naturally become as beloved as hew as in Trenton.
Last season, Franklin returned to Arm&Hammer Park to fill in for Pedrique, who was attending his daughter’s graduation. In conjunction, he was inducted into the Trenton Baseball Gall of Fame. There were tears among thousands in the stands that Saturday night.
Player after player who played for Franklin and became major-leaguers thanked him on the video board. Players back in Pulaski were thanking him for showing then what it takes to be a professional baseball player.
The man is a gem, and an All-Star of managers at any level.