Atlanta Braves August deals that mattered: Julio Franco
By Fred Owens
After being released by the Mets in July 2007, Franco rejoined the Atlanta Braves. Franco appears to have been correct about the Mets as he outperformed his early season numbers in New York once he returned to Atlanta. He recorded his last major league hit as a member of the Braves, a first pitch opposite field single that also produced his final Major League RBI.
Franco played his last Major League game on September 17, 2007, at the age of 49 years and 25 days. The Brewers signed him for 2008 but cut him before the end of spring training.
He played a few games back in Mexico during 2008 and in 2014 surfaced in Fort Worth as player/manager for the Cats in the United Baseball League. Following the 2015 season, he took over as manager for the Ishikawa Million Stars in a Japanese independent league.
According to a post by Parker White on 12 Up, and a more in-depth piece in The Athletic (subscription required), Franco moved to Korea to this season to coach the Lotte Giants in the Korean Baseball League (KBO.)
When Franco arrived in Atlanta, then Braves coach Ned Yost told Cox that Franco looked in better shape than anyone on the Braves. It appears he’s still a superb physical specimen.
White quotes Sung Min Kim in The Athletic speaking in superlatives about the 59-year-old manager.
"Franco’s arms and chest are bigger than those of any (Lotte) Giants prospect he coaches. He still lifts (weights) five times a week."
According to White, Franco responded to a question by Kim about his physical condition like this.
"“I gotta take care of this vessel,” Franco said. “This is where I’m spending all of my time. You got one life to live. If you don’t take care of your body when you’re young, believe me, it’s going to be too late when you’re old.”"
That’s a wrap
Julio Franco celebrated his 60th birthday on Thursday. He was as unique a player as he is a man. He played the game because he loved the game. He continues to play and coach because he can’t imagine doing anything else.
My dad always said good hitters will always hit. I have no doubt Julio Franco could step to the plate today and get a hit. Franco was always the guy I wanted as Atlanta Braves hitting coach. No one knows more about the art of hitting and few used it as effectively as Franco in his prime.
Now that he’s not playing any longer, Franco could be back in the Dominican enjoying retirement. Instead, he spends his time coaching in the KBO’s low minor leagues when 50 fans are a crowd and the players are a long way from the big leagues.
Happy belated birthday Julio. Thanks for being there when the Atlanta Braves needed you. I hope one day soon you’re back home helping young players learn to play the game the right way.