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Friday, April 30, 2010

Nick Franklin’s Big Bonus: Family Came First

Jim Ecker        
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- Nick Franklin received a $1.28 million bonus to sign with the Seattle Mariners last summer and knew exactly what he wanted to do with some of the money. He gave a chunk to his parents to pay off the mortgage on their home in Florida.

You have to admit, that’s a good son.

“My family comes first. I took care of my family,” he said Thursday. “I helped pay off the house, so that way they don’t have that much stress on them.”

Franklin, 19, was the 27th pick in the 2009 draft. He’s playing this year for the Clinton LumberKings in the Class A Midwest League, a switch-hitting shortstop with fluid movements on the field and good pop in his bat.

Franklin’s parents, Steve and Debbie, fully supported his youth baseball career, driving him all over the place and wiping his nose. He attended 18 different Perfect Game events in high school, and when the time came to thank his parents, he delivered in style.

“It’s my family. I’m going to do anything for my family,” he said. “I was just playing baseball. They were getting me there.”

Once Franklin thanked his parents, he gave himself a nice reward with some of that first-round money.

“I got an Escalade, and I kind of tricked it out a little bit,” he said with a smile. “I added a couple of things.”

A Cadillac Escalade is an expensive ride, but it’s his first vehicle and he figures he’ll keep it forever. With a $1.28 million bonus, he could afford a little luxury.

Franklin, a lithe 6-1, 175, has been moving rapidly in the Mariners organization. He hit .302 in 10 games in the Arizona Rookie League after signing last summer, then played six games with Everett in the Northwest League. He was assigned to the LumberKings this year and was hitting .337 with five homers, four triples and 15 RBIs in 21 games after going 2-for-5 with a long homer against the Cedar Rapids Kernels Thursday night.

“So far, everything is going great,” he said. “I’d say our team is coming along well.”
Franklin had a scholarship to Auburn in his back pocket if he didn’t like what happened in the 2009 draft, but Seattle made it easy for him to sign and skip college. His older brother, Clint, is a pitcher at the University of Florida, so they could have faced each other in an SEC game this season if Franklin had gone to school, but it didn’t work out that way.

“I wanted to get my career started early,” he said. “The faster you get in there, the quicker you go up.”

Franklin’s homer on Thursday night in Cedar Rapids sailed more than 400 feet, helped by a stiff breeze, but he has surprising power for his size. He didn’t lift weights until he was a senior in high school, long after most serious prep athletes get started.
“I wasn’t trying to get overly big,” he explained. “I wanted to stay limber. I always wanted to stay with that quickness that I always had.”

Franklin weighed only 150 pounds when he made the varsity as a freshman in high school. He weighed in the 160 to 162 range as a sophomore and junior, then decided it was time to seriously hit the weights as a senior. He teamed with a trainer who works with pro athletes and the results were dramatic.

“I put on like 13 pounds before my senior year, which was great for me,” he said. “It helped me tremendously. I still had the same quickness, because that’s what I was working on in the gym.”

Franklin has been working on his game for a long time. When he was 15, he played on the 16U USA Team that won the gold medal at an international tournament in Venezuela. He developed a staff infection in his knee during that event and said he received only minimal treatment from medical personnel in Venezuela, making him appreciate the United States even more.

“It makes you feel grateful that you’re here in the U.S., where you have all these great things for you,” he said.

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