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An Upcoming Star in Baseball
On The Mound – Franklin Parks
By Kevin Wilson
Special to BASN
MARYLAND (BASN) Franklin Parks came by the sports gene honestly.
His grandfather, the late Frank E. Parks Jr., a native of West Virginia, starred in football, basketball and semi- pro baseball and tried out for the Cleveland Browns. Parks was the first African American president of the National High School Coach Association and was inducted into the National High School Coaches Hall of Fame.
Franklin Parks’ father, Rodney, was an All Interhigh East gridiron star in 1975 at Spingarn High, in Washington, D.C.. His Uncle Bobby, the younger brother to Larry and Rodney, played organized football and wrestled at Central High in Prince George’s County, Maryland. The genetic torch has been passed on to Franklin Parks, a 15-year-old pitching phenom, who’s making tremendous strides in a sport that’s rapidly growing worldwide.
Franklin’s baseball career began at age nine, while playing catch with his father. It wasn’t long before he joined St. Pius X’s (Catholic Youth Organization) baseball team in Bowie, Maryland, where he attended school. Franklin, coached by his father for two years, played in 10 games, exhibiting his versatility on the mound, at shortstop and third base, and behind the plate. As a pitcher, he recorded the most strikeouts in one game (8) against Holy Redeemer.
At 12, he played for Chuck Ford’s Baseball travel team, competing against the top teams in the Metro area in the Chesapeake 12 and Under Division. From January to March, he attended winter workouts at Extra Innings in Laurel, Maryland. The season started in April and concluded in June.
Early in Franklin’s career, he experienced the ultimate goal in any sport – winning a title. Chuck Ford defeated the Police Athletic League Rockfish in the finale at Laurel Springs Park in Waldorf, Maryland- the same year he joined the team.
Franklin caught the entire game, went 2 for 3 at the plate, with 4 RBI’s.
“The home plate umpire said, I called a good game and he recommended that I connect with his son, who played at Clemson, to hone my fundamental skills,” Franklin told BASN.
Now 15 and a high school junior, Franklin, defines baseball as freedom away from the pains of life and a sport that allows him to express himself. Franklin is elated to play in any park to showcase his potential, including a turn at Bowie Baysox Stadium, home of the Baltimore Orioles’ AA franchise.
His baseball career stumbled a bit early on. As a freshman at Good Counsel, a Catholic high school in Olney, Maryland, Franklin was cut from the baseball team, despite what he described as a fairly good tryout at second base.
He was the only player cut. Franklin said that the next morning, freshman coach Steve Limbardoz, a former Minnesota Twins player, called, saying that he could not sleep but that Franklin had been cut because his reaction time at second base would get him hurt.
“My wife and I have emphasized a balance on academics and baseball,” says Rodney.
Not discouraged by the experience, Franklin returned to travel ball for the Potter’s Pirates. He played every position, except first base, maintaining a .290 batting average. In 25 games, he threw out 16 base runners and struck out seven per season.
Several Good Counsel baseball players anticipated that Franklin would throw in the towel and never try out again for the school team. He did the opposite. This past spring he made the junior varsity squad, pitched one inning for a 14-3 team, that placed second in the W.C.A.C. tied with St. John’s. Against Bishop Ireton, Parks gave up one hit, struck out two batters, winning 9-0.
This summer, Franklin has been highly successful on the mound and behind the plate. Signing with the 19 and Under Ruth Baseball Ideal Devils in the Wood Bat League, he has acquired more experience as an outfielder and second baseman under Coach Jason Martin. With an array of pitches, the 5-foot-8, 150-pounder threw 92 pitches in one game, losing 10-5 to the Lake Shore Graysox. In four innings, he fanned six batters.
“I spoke up to my coach, got the opportunity, he saw my potential and I never looked back,” he said.
In a series of games, Parks pitched eight innings, struck out 22 and walked six.
During a game against the Lake Shore Colts, the Devils were victorious, 10-9, as Parks threw 67 pitches and registered nine strikeouts in five innings. He left the game with a 7-3 lead.
Franklin’s favorite team is the Washington Nationals. He watches the Nats pitchers, how they approach the game, their tempo and he tries to model his pitching style after them, especially Rafael Soriano. Franklin admires the amount of saves that Soriano has accumulated.
In May, Parks pitched five innings against Lake Shore Carolina from Pasadena, Maryland, allowing six hits, nine strikeouts and only one earned run, walking one batter.
“Out of 67 pitches, 52 were strikes, which is an outstanding ratio,” said Coach Martin. Due to league rules, Franklin had to be pulled after five innings. According to the Devils head coach, Franklin is definitely developing into a player that will compete at the college level. His leadership and control on the mound shows that. He is going to see a lot of action this summer and play against some of the top talent in Maryland.
On the season, Franklin has recorded impressive stats. He’s pitched 16.2 innings while striking out 32 batters. The right handed hurler throws a mid-70 mph fastball and locates his pitches well. He also has a great consistent off-speed curveball. During the latter part of May, a trendsetting moment occurred. Three Devil’s pitchers teamed up for a no-hitter win over Severna Park White, winning 5-2, at Shipley’s Pony Park. Parks along with teammates R.J.Gins and Ty Richardson, collectively struck out 14 and walked seven. Franklin held the foes hitless over five innings, no earned runs, while disappointing nine batters returning them to the dugout.
Since last year, Parks and Richardson have established a super relationship. “When Franklin is down, I pat him on the back. I get an enthusiastic feeling when he strikes out players,” said Richardson, a catcher who attends Severna Park High. Prior to each game, Ty reminds Franklin not to let a player get into his head, “and that he can throw off my signs and also feel free to throw what he wants.”
“When Franklin gets upset, he runs around the field thinking through his mistakes,” says Beverly Richardson, and educator and Ty’s mom.
Ending spring travel ball on a good note, Franklin and the Devils spanked Severna Park Green, cruising to a 19-6 win. Pitching three innings, he struck out two batters and walked three. Facing 120 batters overall, he retired 44 batters with a strikeout percentage of .558. He appeared in 11 games with a 3.5 E.R.A.. What keeps him strong is the ideal food intake for a teen…. plenty of vegetables, lots of water, watermelon and strawberries, steak and ice tea.
Chosen to represent the 2015 USA Amateur Baseball Team in Italy was quite an honor for Franklin and two other Prince George’s County players. The team toured five different cities while learning the cultural of Italy from June 15-23. Coach Izzy Taylor of DeMatha selected Franklin for his passion of the game and character.
“Each of the 20 chosen had to be exceptional in the classroom, the trip is more educational,” he pointed out. Taylor noticed Parks last year, and he was impressed on how attentive he listened and how well he followed instructions, including his work ethic. Franklin also maintains a 3.5 GPA.
Each player wore a red, white and blue jersey, representing the USA flag. They played a total of six games. Three were official and three were mixed-squad, exhibition style, for enjoyment. “My experience in Italy was a once in a lifetime, not only because of baseball, but by forming everlasting friendships with my teammates from Italy and the USA,” Parks said.
The self-admitted history buff aspires to be a doctor and has set his sights on Johns Hopkins, University of Maryland, Georgetown or Stanford. When he returns to school in the fall, he will participate in the International Baccalaureate Program of Studies and try out for the varsity. And playing pro baseball is still a possibility.
But for now, his next stop: summer travel ball.