LIVING OUT HIS DREAM: Paxton grad excelling at professional level

Published 12:05 am Thursday, June 22, 2017

Like a lot of boys growing up in America, Austin Franklin grew up with dreams of playing professional baseball, but unlike most of those kids Franklin currently living that dream.

“It was pretty exciting,” Franklin said of about getting drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays. “It was everything that I had been working to achieve and it’s just a dream come true to play baseball out of high school.”

After graduating from Paxton, the Florala native was the third round selection of the Tampa Bay Rays in the July 2016 draft and he spent the past year for the Rays rookie ball team in the Gulf Coast League.

Franklin is a right-handed pitcher with a mid-90s fastball and an above-average curveball, according to scouts.

“Last year went really well,” Franklin said. “There was a lot of learning. Pro ball is a lot different than high school. I was able to learn quickly and had people around me that believed that I could do it. I made a lot of strides with the help of the staff.”

In nine starts during his first year, Franklin went 1-2 with a 2.70 ERA. He struck out 40 batters in 43 innings pitched. Franklin didn’t allow a single home run in 2016.

When a runner reached second base against Franklin in 2016, batting averages against him shrunk to .053.

His 40 strikeouts was tops for the GCL Rays.

This year Franklin was promoted to Class A New York-Penn League, where he is playing for the Hudson Valley Renegades.

“One of my expectations coming into the year was to make the team in Hudson Valley,” Franklin said. “I wanted to prove that I had what it takes to skip advanced rookie ball, and they believed in me that I could do that.”

On Tuesday night, the Renegades opened up the season with road game against Aberdeen, and Franklin was called on to make the opening day start.

Franklin went five innings, struck out nine batters and allowed just one run on his way to picking up the win.

“It feels good to get the opening day nod,” Franklin said. “Knowing that the coaches believe in me and know that I have what it takes to get the job done really feels good.”

Against Aberdeen, Franklin got the first two batters out in the bottom of the first inning before Chris Johnson hit a two-out home run.

Franklin then struck out the next batter to end the inning.

Franklin retired the next seven batters in order before a leadoff single in the bottom of the fourth inning.

After the single, Franklin struck out the next three batters to end the Aberdeen threat.

In the bottom of the fifth, Franklin struck out the first two batters and then got the third batter to ground out to shortstop.

Hudson Valley went on to win the game 11-2 with Franklin earning the win on the hill.

“I felt like I pitched pretty well,” Franklin said. “It was a confidence booster and hopefully it will carry over to my next start.”

Franklin said that he excited to see what the future holds for his baseball career, but right now he is just enjoying the ride.

“Right now, I’m just going to enjoy the year and pitch like I know how,” Franklin said. “I’m just going to keep making strides, progressing and eventually, one day make it to the big leagues.”

While he is living his dream, Franklin said that there have been many people a long the way that have helped make this dream a reality.

“I have a lot to be thankful for,” Franklin said. “Starting with my parents. They raised me in a way that will stick with for the rest of my life. There’s also the numerous coaches and players that have pushed me and taught me. This past offseason I married my wife Sydney and she has stuck with me through all of it. I’m so thankful for her and can’t wait to see what the future holds for us.”