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First week of professional career keeps BAHS graduate busy

Kohl Franklin working out in Arizona after signing with Cubs

Kohl Franklin delivers a pitch during a scrimmage in February.

Out-of-state travelers who visit Mesa, Ariz., this time of year quickly discover that Salt River Tubing offers a relaxed floating respite from the desert’s 110 degree daytime heat.

TripAdvisor’s No. 2 recreational water sport in Mesa is a short drive east on Red Mountain Freeway from Shelby Park and the Chicago Cubs Spring Training facility – the work place of 2018 Broken Arrow High School graduate Kohl Franklin.

Selected by the Cubs in this year’s Major League Baseball draft, the sixth-round pick signed with the organization last week. A couple of days later he was off to Mesa.

“The day before I flew out it kind of hit me that I’m going have a chance to live my dream,” Franklin said. “After it all sunk in I knew was ready to start working on my professional career.”

One advantage of being a BA Tiger rookie in Mesa, Ariz., is the proximity of the home of BA alum and Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Archie Bradley. Franklin and a couple of fellow-Cub rookies spent their only day off “hanging out” in the pool at Bradley’s house.

Though work days are long, the true baseball activity is minimal. There’s stretching, conditioning and working out before Franklin dons a glove or picks up a baseball. Then it’s only 45 throws from 90 feet. After some down, the draftees watch a game of one or both of the Cubs teams that compete in the Arizona Rookie League. Of course, there are three nutritional meals along with sometimes a second workout and more catch. In all, it’s a nearly 12-hour work day.

“They are taking it slow with me since I was the only high school pitcher they signed,” Franklin said. “I am very ready to start playing. But I knew that being one of the younger players that it would take time getting on the field.”

Kohl FranklinLaunch the second image gallery player
There is no timetable set for when he’ll appear in his first rookie game. However, he expects to be throwing bullpen sessions within a week.

Actually, Franklin has not played much baseball in 2018. Tiger Coach Shannon Dobson penciled Franklin in as the Tigers No. 1 starter after he went 5-2 with 40 strikeouts and a 1.85 ERA as a junior. However, Franklin fouled a ball of his foot the second game of the season. A fractured bone sidelined him until just a before regionals. He made only two starts his senior year, going 2-0 with 19 strikeouts to only four walks. He had a 1.90 ERA in his 11 innings pitched.

Franklin signed to play baseball at the University of Oklahoma last winter. The professional contract offered a signing bonus well above the guaranteed minimum for his selection round, as well as college tuition. Franklin chose to begin his professional career now. Had he chosen to play for the Sooners, he would not have been eligible for the MLB draft until after his third year in college.

“There are awesome people at OU. The coaches are great,” he said. ““It was a very tough decision.”

In just a week, his on-the-job training has been educational.

“Every single coach has been so good,” he said. “There is an element of communication that has been a contributed to learning. Coaches explain what do and how to execute the plan.”

Mentally, Franklin has crafted is own goal-oriented develop plan. He envisions playing AA ball in two years and making it to the majors a couple of years after that.

“I feel like the way I compete and the way I play that I can move up pretty quickly,” he said.

Don’t interpret Franklin as saying it’s going to be easy. With a father (Jay), who is a certified MLB Players Agent and uncle (Ryan), who played 12 years in the Majors, this rookie has had plenty of mentoring on what it takes to reach the pinnacle of his new profession.

Franklin is cognizant that he is just one of more than 100 players currently working out at the Cubs Mesa facility who are chasing the same dream. That has strengthened his competitive drive. He says improving each day will always come first.  

When talking with Kohl Franklin it is obvious he is more focused on stepping atop the pitcher’s mound at Wrigley Field in four years than he is of traveling east on Red Mountain Freeway to spend the day tubing the Salt River.