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When Maikel Franco was climbing up through the Phillies minor league system, I remember talking with the hot, young prospect the day before Opening Day—on a particularly frigid April afternoon. It was Franco’s first spring in the Northeast. As I approached him, our exchange went like:
FRANCO: “Man, it’s cold out there. It’s not normally this cold up here in April, is it?”
ME: “I’m afraid so.”
FRANCO (smiling): “That’s no good…I’m not a cold weather hitter.”
True enough, Franco struggled for the first two months of that season until the weather did warm up for good. Once that happened, he made a rather quick ascension up the minor league ladder.
Since then, Maikel has battled issues of inconsistency—coming randomly over the last couple years—regardless of what the thermostat was registering.
I recently approached Franco in the Phillies clubhouse—a few minutes after he hit his fourth career grand slam and his fifth consecutive game where he hit a home run at Citizens Bank Park, a streak that dated back to the end of last September—another chilly time for baseball.
He beamed his big smile again when I recounted that story to him. He quickly pointed out he feels that he has figured things out at the plate, even on a night where the wind chill factor was in the mid-30s.
Here’s the rest of my conversation with Maikel along with his comments on how effective his new batting stance has been…
At the time of this conversation his batting average was .308. However, after the two series against the Reds and Rays (in the warm climate/indoor stadium of Tampa Bay no less) and one game in “Hot-lanta” (although it’s been anything but warm in Georgia this week), Franco’s season BA has dropped to .214 (as of press time) and his slugging percentage has dropped over a hundred points.
Clearly, it still remains to be seen if Franco is the proven, everyday, power-hitting threat the Phillies organization had clearly envisioned back when he was still in the minor leagues. With Scott Kingery’s strong acclimation to Major League pitching and Mitch Walding hitting well at Triple-A (currently with a slash line of .342/.405/.579), he certainly has to feel some pressure. But if he can hit like he did the first two weeks of the season in the cold weather, perhaps there is still hope that he can still be a part of the team’s future.
One of the top high school games we covered for “SportsTalk” last week was a great contest between Central Catholic and Northampton. Here’s a sample of the highlights and “players of the game” interviews from that contest.
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