By Joseph Staszewski
John Franco made it in life and is now trying to make sure New York City’s youth have the opportunities and guidance to help them do so in theirs.
The former New York Mets reliever played 21 years in the Major Leagues, one of the few in millions who have gotten to do so. Franco’s message to young people isn’t to stop striving for that, but to have a backup plan if it doesn’t work out. Find your passion and go after it.
“Work hard, live out your dream,” Franco said. “Don’t let anyone tell you want you can’t do. If you put enough time and effort into anything, you can do whatever you want.”
It is exactly what he told a group of more than 100 people at the second annual George Kalafatis Leadership in Sports Conference at Long Island University Oct. 16. The audience, which ranged from baseball fans, to Blackbird student-athletes, to students from the High School of Sports Management, listened to Franco, WFAN radio personality Craig Carton and Brooklyn Cyclones Assistant General Manager Gary Perone talked about how to give yourself a better chance of achieving goals in life. The three run the NYC All Stars Sports Group, which is looking to provide quality chances for New York City kid to play and learn the sport they love.
“We try to give opportunities,” Franco said.
Part of having opportunities is seizing them, not missing out on them or leaving them behind. Franco said two scouts told him as a high school pitcher at Lafayette that he’d never make it in baseball. As a freshman at St. John’s he thought about quitting as the grind of the mass transit commute from Brooklyn and playing college ball got to him. His father told him a scholarship and a chance to make a career in baseball should not be tossed aside. Franco’s fellow speakers echoed those sentiments.
“I took that advice from my dad,” Franco said. “Thank God I did take that advice because who knows where I’d be today.”
Franco made his mark differently than the other big time relievers. The Kansas City Royals have ridden a bullpen full of flamethrowers to the World Series. Franco didn’t throw extremely hard, but instead used changing speeds and movement to record 424 saves, the most by any left-handed pitcher.
“The one thing is the power arms don’t last for a long time,” Franco said.
He is trying to help kids find their staying power in life. His organization sponsors the Borough Cup baseball tournament for five different age groups and the NYC Varsity League, for high school sophomore, junior and senior baseball players.
“Maybe they get seen by one of the colleges who haven’t seen them before and offer them a scholarship,” Franco said.
He made the most of his chances and the breaks he earned in life. Franco just wants to make sure others do the same.