For the first time in 10 seasons, Tony Franklin, who will turn 66 June 9, will not be managing a Yankees farm team in 2017.
And, he’s happy as he can be with his usual enthusiasm and captivating smile. Also, he is still firmly entrenched and valued in the Yankees organization.
“So a lot of you wanted to what I’d be doing this year?” Franklin said via phone from his home in Los Angeles Friday afternoon. “I was offered a great position in Tampa by (Yankees Vice President of Player Development) Gary (Denbo), and I’m excited about it. It’s a chance to help more players in the organization than I ever have before.”
Franklin, based in Tampa, will serve as the system’s Rehabilitation Coach for position players who are sent to Tampa after injury. It could be a Double-A Trenton player; it could be a major-league player. Franklin will help them smooth their respective roads back.
“I’ll be working with these players on the baseball part of it,” he said. “After the doctors and trainers give them the go-ahead, I’ll be working with them on drills, getting their timing back. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Having the always upbeat Franklin in this position can only help. Attitude is a big part of rehab for injured players, as Yankees first baseman Greg Bird explained.
“Tampa is a great place to be when it is in Spring Training. You want to be there then,” said Bird, who is the front-runner to play first base for the Yankees this season. “But when you are hurt, and you are down there during the season, it’s the last place you want to be.
“You have to be there and follow your program. The people working with you do seem to grasp what we go through when we’re trying to get back on the field.”
Franklin, who brought out the best in players during his 21 seasons of managing – 10 years in the Yankees system and eight with Double-A Trenton that produced three Eastern League championships – fits this rehabilitation role perfectly. Few in the Yankees system empathize with players the unique way he can.
While Jay Bell, an excellent baseball man, joins the Yankees organization and will pilot the Class-A Advanced Tampa Yankees in 2017, Franklin’s managerial experience and game management will also be put to use this spring and summer.
“This is another part of this that has me excited,” he said. “Beside the Tampa Yankees, we have two other teams down here in the Gulf Coast League (GCL Yankees East and GCL Yankees West) and a lot of younger coaches just getting a start.
“I’ll be working with those teams as well. I’ll assist our younger staffs wherever ( can.”
Franklin certainly could have gone back to Appalachian League Pulaski, where he has been the last two seasons, but jumped at the offer to stay in warm weather all season.
“It’s good for my bones,” he said with a chuckle. “At this stage of my career, this works out perfectly for me. “I enjoy working for the Yankees, and they have been great to me.”
And, Tony Franklin, you have been great for the Yankees system as well, and the organization is glad to have you.