This season a lot of younger players from the lower minor league teams have made their debuts at the Triple-A level. Infielder Nick Franklin, who was drafted in 2009, was one of them. He spent his first season with the Arizona Rookie League and Everett. Over the next two years he played with the Single-A Clinton LumberKings, Double-A Jackson Generals and Single-A High Desert Mavericks, with a short rehab stint in Arizona. Franklin was promoted to Tacoma from Jackson, Tenn., on June 20, 2012. As of Aug. 27, he was batting .237 in 57 games, with seven homeruns and four triples. He also has 64 strike outs. Although the Rainiers’ home season is over for 2012, fans can look forward to seeing more of this five-tool player in the future, whether here or in Seattle. Tacoma Weekly baseball writer Karen Westeen sat down with Franklin before the season ended to find out more about the 21-year old’s life and career.
TW: You were born and raised in Florida. Where do you live now?
NF: In Orlando.
TW: And you were drafted right after graduating from Lake Brantley High School. Did you get to play your first year?
NF: Yes. I played 10 games with the Arizona League Mariners and six in Everett.
TW: What was it like going so far from home to play in Arizona and then the Pacific Northwest?
NF: It was definitely different, especially the climate change from Arizona to Everett.
TW: Where were you on draft day?
NF: I was having dinner at a friend of the family’s.
TW: Did you expect the Mariners might draft you?
NF: I didn’t know exactly what would happen, or who would pick me up.
TW: When you were growing up did you have a player you wanted to be like?
NF: My role models were Craig Biggio and Chase Utley. They seemed really professional on and off the field.
TW: Have you always been an infielder?
NF: Mostly yes. I caught and pitched every now and then, and I played left field for Team USA.
TW: What do you feel is your natural position?
NF: Shortstop. I’ve played only short and second here and with the other Mariners (organization) teams I’ve been on.
TW: How long have you been a switch-hitter?
NF: Basically I’ve done it all my life. I was a switch-hitter off and on through high school, and I started switch-hitting full time my senior year.
TW: Do you feel you have a natural side?
NF: Both sides have been going good lately. It takes time to develop.
TW: In 2010 you hit 23 homeruns (breaking a 49-year old Clinton, Iowa franchise record) and stole 25 bases with Single-A Clinton, and you were named the team’s Offensive Player of the Year. Have you always considered yourself a power hitter?
NF: I got stronger and stronger in high school. As I developed more power, I began hitting more homeruns.
TW: Have you always been a big base stealer?
NF: Honestly everything increases as I get older, my speed and my power, my hand-eye coordination. I’ve always been pretty quick.
TW: 2010 was a monster year for you. You were one of only three Minor Leaguers to hit more than 20 homeruns and steal more than 20 bases that year. You were named the top Minor League shortstop by Baseball America on their post-season All-Star list, and you made the Midwest League’s midseason and postseason All-Star lists. Did you get to play in the midseason game?
TW: Then last year you were out for two months (June 27-Aug. 18) with a concussion. How did that happen?
NF: I was in the batting cage and I was hit by a flying bat. Honestly I wasn’t paying attention. It was precautionary (that I was out so long). I did okay afterward.
TW: I guess so. You hit right at .300 for the season (88 games) and you were named to the Arizona Fall League’s Rising Stars game. What was that like?
NF: It was just a fun game, with players from different AFL teams. (The game was more than just fun for Franklin, who was named its MVP for going 4-for-5, scoring three runs, hitting two doubles and a homerun and driving in four runs. At the end of the season Baseball America named him the fifth most promising player in the Mariners’ organization.)
TW: When you got to Cheney in June, what was your overall impression?
NF: It’s a nice stadium. The center field depth doesn’t scare me because I shoot for the gaps. The weather’s different from the humidity in Tennessee, and it feels nice to move up in your job. I’m still looking to push it to the next level so I work hard every day, get better every day.
TW: Do you feel you’re a better player offensively or defensively?
NF: I’m trying to mold the two into one. I think there shouldn’t be one upside and one downside. I try to balance out the two and help my team win because it is a team game
TW: You’re working with a different hitting coach here, Jeff Pentland. What’s that been like?
NF: By the time you get to this level you’ve got a pretty good feel for how you’re going to hit, but he’s here to help make minor adjustments, and he keeps track of what pitchers have and lets you know what’s going to happen beforehand.
TW: What have been the highlights of your career so far?
NF: Staying healthy this year, and winning the first half while I was with Jackson.
TW: Your family’s pretty far away. Have they gotten to see you play at Triple-A yet?
NF: Just on the internet. They might make it to one of the away games.
TW: What do you do in the offseason to stay in condition?
NF: I have a personal trainer who’s helped me out through my high school and pro career. He’s a really good instructor. We stay in touch during the season as well.
TW: You’re just 21 now, but have you thought about what you might do after you finish your baseball career?
NF: I’d love to get into coaching. I’m really not sure yet but I’ve always wanted to go to college for culinary classes, although I don’t know when I would bring that in.
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