Slammers shaping up
JOLIET — Don't be surprised if the Joliet Slammers Frontier League baseball team doesn't resemble a Runnin' Redskins team before long.
This past offseason, amongst the many changes made to the team at Silver Cross Field was naming a new partnership group and a new general manager. That new general manager may be familiar to fans of the MCHS baseball team as it is 1999 graduate Chris Franklin.
Frankin said that he kept his baseball playing dreams alive as long as he could after hanging up his Redskins uniform following a team that won a regional championship. He played four years at Blackburn College before getting involved in front office work for minor league baseball.
"I think at first you dream of playing. That was always my first goal. But when I realized that wasn't going to be a reality, I jumped into the front office and fell in love with it," Frankin said. "I found my passion. I worked my way up through the system and became a general manager. Now I get to do that back home and that's pretty unbelievable."
Despite being just 31 years old, Franklin has a slew of experience in the Frontier League, including three years as the general manager of the River City Rascals. He said that things were in motion for him to get where he is now after hanging up his Beavers uniform.
"Once I finished there, I came back home and worked out of Bolingbrook for Southern Wine and Spirits," Franklin said. "That was before I came out to the (Joliet) Jackhammers in 2006. I spent one year here with the Jackhammers as ticket sales representative."
He was putting his degree in Public Administration to work for the then Jackhammers, but things changed in 2007 and he ended up leaving town with then GM Steve Malliet.
"I followed Steve Malliet from here down to O'Fallon, Mo, where I worked for the Rascals for five and a half years, three years as their general manager," Franklin said.
Malliet would be on the move again but Franklin remained behind at that time. It turned out to be a very good thing for him
"We went to three championships in a row, winning in 2010," he said. "I had a really good coaching staff down there. Really all the credit goes to them. They did a tremendous job."
One year after winning the Frontier League title, the Slammers had a down year last year, finishing 37-58 and facing a major shakeup.
Franklin said that taking on the challenge of being the Slammers GM is something he finds exciting.
"I don't feel pressure at all when it comes to that," he said ."I feel like I have a good grasp on the league and what's going on. I put a lot of stock and faith into my field manager and the coaching staff. I focus more on the business end of things. I let them put the team together."
One of the first major executive decisions that needed to be made by Franklin is hiring a new manager that will come in and run a team they put together. One that Franklin sees based on pitching and defense.
"Pitching and defense is it. You can't sit back and wait for the three-run home run. Especially in this league," Franklin said. "We're in a rather large ballpark and there are some bigger ballparks in the Frontier League, which means you really need to play to you strengths. You can always count on pitching and you can always count on defense. Bats can go cold, but when they happens you have to learn how to manufacture runs. Just like the old Runnin' Redskins. That something I learned a long time ago and that's the style I like."
The team would appear to be in the final stages of its current managerial search, one that has included six candidates. Regardless of who is named, Franklin said that he plans to work closely with the new field manager, especially when it comes to personnel decisions.
"We'll sit down and have conversations. Whether I hire this person or that person. As we go through the season, we'll talk all the time," Franklin said. "It's finding a balance. We play a 96-game schedule. I subscribe to the theory that you should never be too high and you should never be too low. You have to be kind of even keeled. There's certain points throughout the course of the year where you have to make a move or not make a move. Early on, you have the luxury of time on your side where you can maybe wait and see things through a little longer. But I like to say that by the All-Star break, you kind of know what you've got and you have about two weeks after that All-Star break to set your team."
So when do the Slammers think the process of hiring a manager will, pun intended, wrap up?
"I hope to have it wrapped up by Christmas," he said. "We're close ... we're very close."
In which case, the first big ticket item on Franklin's Christmas wish list.