Yankees minor-league manager Tony Franklin was just where you would expect to find him the week before Thanksgiving.
On a golf course in the Greater Los Angeles area.
“We’re trying to get a round in,” said Franklin, 65. “It’s going to get dark out here soon. Yes, it is still warm.”
As far as the Yankees system goes, it would be tough to find someone more valuable. Franklin won three Eastern League championships – and made two other finals appearances – with the Double-A Trenton Thunder in eight years in the Garden State. Last season, filling in for Trenton manager Al Pedrique on a weekend when he attended his daughter’s graduation, Franklin was inducted into the Trenton Baseball Hall of Fame.
“That was a nice weekend,” he said. “I felt real appreciated in Trenton. The fans, the Thunder front office, all were great.”
Franklin also enjoyed his 2015 assignment, working Extended Spring Training and managing the Rookie Advanced level Appalachian League Pulaski Yankees to a league-best 46-23 mark, the Appalachian East title and a playoff berth.
The Yankees brass were thrilled with the job Franklin did, bringing players such as shortstop Hoy Jun Park, outfielders Carlos Vidal, Frank Frias and Nathan Mikolas along. He also helped infielder Gosuke Katoh, a superb fielder, get his confidence back at the plate, as he batted .287 (58-for-202) after scuffling at Class-A Charleston.
And third baseman Allen Valerio, another product of the Dominican Republic, had 12 homers and 41 RBIs in 58 games.
“I really thought Park adjusted well,” said Franklin. “He’s going to be a good player. I really feel all these guys are going to have good years in A ball in 2016.”
And the pitchers Franklin helped bring along, like lefty Nestor Cortes, a Florida native who put together a 6-3, 2.26 marl, striking out 66 and walking just 10. Not bad for a guy who was drafted in the 36th round in 2013 out of Hialeah Senior High.
“What was nice about working Extended Spring Training and the Appalachian League was, at this point in my career, it took less of a toll on me,” said Franklin.
“And you know how much I like working with the young kids and teaching,” he said. “Really it’s mostly teaching. It’s teaching at all the levels, reminding the players what it takes, and how you have to carry yourself, if you want to make it to the majors.”
Franklin is as loyal to the Yankees organization as anyone.
“I told both (Vice President of Player Development) Gary Denbo and (General Manager) Brian Cashman I’ll go wherever they need me to help make our organization as strong as it can be.”
The Yankees usually announce their minor-league staffs in December, which is just around the corner. There have been winters when the assignments were put out in early January.
We know there will be a new manager at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, as veteran skipper Dave Miley retired after the 2015 season. It means to be seen if there are other moves as well. The Yankees had both solid managers and staffs at every level.
Yet, few are as appreciated as Franklin. Wherever he is assigned in 2016 – perhaps back to Pulaski – the Yankees brass know he’ll be teaching whatever team he has what it takes to play the game right.