Baseball Betsy and I journeyed over to Steinbrenner Field in Tampa on Wednesday night to see the Clearwater Threshers battle the Tampa Yankees. There, we heard encouraging words from the coaching staff for a guy one coach called “Mike”. It was for Threshers third baseman Maikel Franco but still hearing the name “Mike” for a Phillies prospect named “Mike” brought back memories of a Phillies Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt.
Mike Schmidt never played at the high A level in the Florida State League though he did manage one year in 2004 in Clearwater. He went right to AA Reading back in 1971 after he was the Phillies second round draft pick that year out of Ohio University. He hit only .211 with eight homer runs in 74 games for the then R-phillies. The current Mike at third base for the Threshers, Maikel Franco from the Dominican Republic in his fourth year in the Phillies system, is playing at baseball age 20 this season at the high A level and put on a hitting performance of Mike Schmidt proportions last night at Brighthouse against the Tampa Yankees.
In the game Maikel Franco went three for five with a two run double, two home runs including a three run blast and a two run tape measure homer for seven RBIs. The tape measure shot hit the side edge roof of the Tiki Bar and the ball bounced down on the customers standing behind the Threshers bullpen in left center field. Franco thrives hitting with runners in scoring position. He is now batting .375 with RISP and .300 overall with four homers and 22 RBIs in the first 21 games of the season. He also made several outstanding plays at third showing off his cannon of an arm much like I remember the arm of Mike Schmidt at third.
The Threshers went on to win 9-4 over the Yankees with “Mike” Franco leading the way driving in seven of the nine Clearwater runs. It will be interesting to see if the Phillies Front Office keeps Franco in Clearwater the entire season or will they give him a shot at the AA Reading third base job by mid season. If they do, I feel certain “Mike” Franco would put up better numbers at Reading than Hall Of Famer Mike Schmidt did in his 74 games there in 1971. It will be interesting to see how close Maikel Franco will come some day to approaching the Hall of Fame major league numbers of Michael Schmidt.