Local product Nash Franko has plenty of talent when it comes to baseball. Earlier this summer, he was able to showcase that ability on a national stage.
Franko is a year-round baseball player, playing in Tehachapi Little League in the spring and playing travel ball for the Tehachapi Trojans in the off-season. Hoping to test his ability against a national audience, Franko was fortunate to land a tryout for the Little League USA select team out of Phoenix Arizona.
If the tryout opportunity was not enough, his play impressed the coaches and scouts enough to earn a spot on USA Select 12U (12 and under) team.
“We flew to Phoenix to get evaluated by the USA Select coaches, who ranged from big league scouts to pro pitching instructors,” said father Sam Franko. “They liked what they saw, and they asked Nash to play in their slumpbuster tournament in Omaha, Nebraska.”
Earlier this summer, both father and son flew out to Omaha to participate in workout and games with nine other boys from six different states.
“We saw some interesting weather when we first arrived. It rained buckets in the morning, then sunny and muggy at practice time, added Franko. “Way too muggy for a couple of Kern County boys that’s for sure.”
The 12U USA Select team played a variety of club travel baseball teams from around the United States. The Slumpbuster Tournament is one of the biggest events in the midwest each year, with the showcase serving as an attraction during the College World Series.
“Just to be there, playing in the neighborhood of Rosenblatt stadium was exciting to say the least,” Franko said. “College kids and parents from around the country cheered and rooted their teams each night as they took the field. Those guys played the game as if it were their last, sometimes it was.”
In addition to playing in games, Franko also got to engage in practice with big-league players and get the college “dorm room” experience, with lodging consisting of a 10x12 dorm room with two beds, two desks and two mobile closets on the Iowa Western campus.
“We were given meal cards and fed just like college students at the cafeteria,” said Franko. “Contrary to popular belief they had great food there. We were driven everywhere as a team in passenger vans. The players lived as a team, ate as a team and played as a team.”
Also a highlight was time to workout at an indoor baseball facility that had cages, mounds to pitch and a multitude of baseball training. During their slotted time to practice, the 12U USA Select team were introduced to a minor league team from Arkansas, with the players and trainers hanging out with the young stars.
“The boys got to watch the Arkansas players stretch and hit and throw to prepare for their next game the following night. They were pretty pumped,” Franko said.
After mid-day games Franko would go back to his dorm to wash up and return for college world series baseball that night. Away from the diamond, Nash was able to experience Hardee’s (Carl’s Jr. of the Midwest), Zesto’s, the Missouri River, and a green pastures without any mountain ranges in the distance.
“He was astonished to find that there were no mountains for miles around,” Franko said. “He was also surprised that there were no Taco Bells like California.”
Young Nash Franko started asking for donations after he got back from evaluations in Phoenix, having to raise $895 for the player package and airfare. Helping Nash through sponsorship were Nana and Grandpa Clough for their early involvement and support, the Tehachapi Ladies of the Moose, Mike and Vicki Veal of Newport Beach, Tehachapi Flower Shop, Maria Aguire, United Steel Workers Union Local 12-52, Steve and Sylvia Long, Tom and Irene Hamel, Grandpa and Grandma Franko, Carlos and Elia Sanchez, Pola Quiroga, and Don Juan’s Grill.
“Each sponsor’s generosity made my son’s trip possible and we thank you,” said Sam Franko.
Posted July 16, 2009; Volume 110 - No.14, print edition July 15, 2009.