Blogs > Minor Matters

Run by The Trentonian's Nick Peruffo, this blog will provide daily multimedia coverage of the Trenton Thunder.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Tony Franklin to return

TRENTON — Trenton Thunder fans will see a familiar face in the dugout when the team returns to Arm & Hammer Park this spring. The Thunder announced Thursday afternoon that longtime manager Tony Franklin will return for his eighth season with the club via press release. “No. 1, I’m not done yet,” Franklin said with a laugh when asked about his decision to come back, via telephone from his native Los Angeles. “I’m not done yet. I’m still passionate, so it was an easy decision.” By all accounts, Franklin is the most successful manager in the team’s 20-year existence. He won his third Eastern League championship with the club last year and has reached the EL’s title series in five of his seven seasons at the helm. He was the EL Manager of the Year in 2012 and owns an overall record with the Thunder of 568-457. “Tony Franklin is a great asset to the Thunder and our community,” General Manager Will Smith said via the release. “The success that we’ve enjoyed on the field during his tenure is unprecedented and we’re excited to see Tony back to defend last season’s championship.” The release said pitching coach Tommy Phelps and strength and conditioning coach Orlando Crance will also return to the club. New hitting coach Marcus Thames as well as Orlando Mercado, who have a combined 18 years of playing experience at the Major League level, will join them. “They bring a lot of experience with their ability to play the game, and when you get to the Double-A level, you start seeing yourself as a Major League player,” Franklin said of the staff’s new additions. “You need to learn how to play the game like a Major League player and think like a Major League player, and I think that’s what Orlando and Marcus have.” Despite all of his success, there were questions about whether the 63-year-old would return. One issue was his health — he underwent a bilateral hip replacement in 2006 and left knee replacement before the 2012 season — but it was clear toward the end of the 2013 season he was beginning to feel better physically. “It’s no secret that I’ve been dealing with injuries the past couple of years, and for a minute there it was not clear to me that I was going to come back, because it was contingent on how well my body was body up,” Franklin said. “All of a sudden things started to get better, my body started feeling better and I was able to handle all of these day-to-day activities like I’ve always done. That was a big factor.” The other major question surrounding Franklin’s return was if he’d be willing to spend another season managing in the minors. He has been open about his desire to coach in the MLB and admitted to exploring his options. “I made a couple inquiries with a couple clubs, but nothing panned out and that’s baseball and that happens,” he said. “Nobody called me specifically, but I reached out to a couple people with some help with some other people, but nothing materialized and that’s OK.” All in all, Franklin sounded genuinely excited about the decision. “Coming back to Trenton is a blessing for me, really,” he said. “A lot of people might look at it as not having a chance, but you know what? I’ve got a pretty good gig. I’m very pleased to be coming back.”