Franklin's dad pivotal to rookie's big league success
From Little League to the Majors, family right by second baseman's side
SEATTLE -- Steve Franklin had an inkling that his son, Nick, might have a special talent for baseball when the boy was just 5 years old. His son was already playing in a kid-pitch league against 7- and 8-year-olds, doing well enough that the coach put him at shortstop -- the most active position defensively.
As Steve watched from the bleachers, an older player from the opposing team slapped a hot grounder into the gap between second and third base. In one fluid motion, Nick ran to the ball, grabbed it and completed a Derek Jeter-esque turn and throw, using the torque from his 180-degree spin to fire the ball over to first base, recording the out.
Fast-forward to May 30, and Steve's suspicions about his son's talent were about to be confirmed. Nick, a rookie second baseman for the Mariners, was starting just his third game since being called up four days prior.
As soon as he was called up, Steve, Nick's mother Debbie and brother Clint all flew out to Seattle. It only made sense for a family that's so close they kept their sons, who are three years apart, on the same team all the way through high school to be there for Nick, who has all their initials tattooed on his left arm.
This is a family whose patriarch built not one, but two batting cages so his sons could hit every day after school. They text Nick during his games, to remind him to call him afterwards. The family moved four miles when the boys were teenagers, so that they could attend baseball powerhouse Lake Brantley High School, and the Franklins drove an hour and a half away three times a week when Nick was 8 years old so they could play on an Amateur Athletic Union travel team.
"It was just kind of like, they've been to all my games back in high school, they came out in the Minor Leagues," Nick said. "It's always comforting to have your family there. So that was nice for them to come out and actually spend some time."
They saw Nick's first two games in Seattle, then Clint, who played baseball at the University of Florida, had to fly back home because of work obligations. But Steve and Debbie joined the Mariners on their road trip to San Diego.
And on May 30, all of Steve's premonitions about his son's baseball ability were confirmed. In the top of the sixth inning, Nick launched his first Major League home run 420 feet, over the center-field wall. It was a thunderous shot from the 190-pound second baseman, one his dad always knew he was capable of.
"When you go to a visiting park, you try to keep a low profile," Steve said. "But the emotion just kind of got the best of me there. When he hit it out to center field, I stood up and started yelling, and it was pretty special."
For good measure, Nick added a second home run in front of his parents in the eighth, becoming the third-youngest Mariners player to record a multihomer game. The two ahead of him? Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez.
Steve Franklin started having Nick play baseball at a young age not because he knew he'd be a future first-round Draft pick, but because he wanted to give him an extracurricular activity to keep him busy outside of school.
He coached and played with him, forging a strong paternal bond through daily batting practice in the cages he built, road trips and even simple games of catch. Now, Steve takes a more hands-off approach, texting his son during games. And Nick always calls him right back.
Jacob Thorpe is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.