With the Dodgers headed to the world series, I thought it would be perfect to talk about Jason's baseball years in my latest blog entry. Jason played baseball from the age of 2 1/2 through 18. While he enjoyed baseball, it was second to him with football, but it was still such an important part of his life.
At 2 1/2, we enrolled Jason in a Tot T-ball program. To be honest, I am not sure who had more fun, Jason or us. I have attached a link to a video at the end of this blog that makes me laugh hysterically every time I watch it. And you can certainly see from the jiggling camera work in the video, that Gregg (the camera operator) had a hard time focusing on his subject matter because he was laughing so hard. Like everything else Jason did, he jumped right in. There was no shyness at all. He walked up to the 4 and 5 years olds in the program and introduced himself. He came out swinging and hit the ball off the tee every time he was at bat. Of course, he was not sure what direction to run after he hit the ball. In his first hit, after the coach yelled run, he headed right for the pitcher's mound. The patient coach picked Jason up and moved him to first base. The next batter came up, hit the ball, the coach yelled at Jason to run and Jason ran immediately off the base and headed to the ball to pick it up to make the play. Again, the patient coach came over, picked Jason up and put him on second base and tried to explain the basic rules of base running to him. Jason nodded as if he fully understood. So, the next batter came to the plate. By this time, Jason was fully involved with his baseball cap, taking it on and off, trying to look like a real baseball player. The batter hit the ball, the coach yelled to Jason to run and Jason, instead, turned to the camera to make sure we got the perfect picture of him in his baseball hat. He was always the ham. In the outfield Jason would jump up and down with such joy and happiness, the same joy and happiness he carried throughout his life.
When Jason reached 4 years old, he joined the Simi Youth league. He played there for about 8 years. The Shetland (4-5 year olds) program was similar to Tot T-Ball in that he spent most of his time twirling in the outfield, picking flowers and, of course, making a few plays here and there. It was at Simi Youth that we first met many of our best friends to this day. Mitch Rose and Bob Palacios became Jason's coaches during Pinto and they brought us into their friend groups. Those friends have stayed with us through all of our joys and tragedies. One of the most memorable moments at Simi Youth was the year Jason's Cubs team beat The Yankees team and won the league championship. Jason's team was huge underdogs going into the game. Jason started the game as the pitcher. He struck one player out after another. Of course, a few got on base, but he definitely did his job that day. In fact, after he was taken out as pitcher, you can see him jumping with joy in the outfield, knowing he had done what he needed to do for his team. That same joy he had as a 2/ 12 year old T-baller. Jason's team won that day and they all piled on top of one another after the game. It was like they won the real MLB world series. The parents were probably more excited then the players. Finally, someone was able to take down those Yankees. Besides being a happy kid, Jason also loved to argue his point. So, another memorable moment in Simi Youth came on a day when Jason decided a strike called by the umpire was not a strike. The problem was that it was a third strike and the catcher had dropped the ball. If you know the game of baseball, if the catcher drops the third strike you can still try to run to first base. As the ball headed toward the backstop, Jason started arguing with the umpire instead of running to first base. Suddenly you could hear Coach Mitch start yelling at Jason to run. Jason was too involved in his argument and did not hear Mitch. Mitch got louder and louder, looking like he was about to have a heart attack. But Jason stayed firm in continuing his argument. Well, as you might guess, the catcher eventually picked up the ball, threw it to first base and Jason was out. Coach Mitch had dropped to his knees frustrated that Jason didn't listen to him. Jason finally gave up his argument, shrugged his shoulders and headed back to the dugout completely oblivious of Coach Mitch still yelling at him as he walked by.
In Jason's last year at Simi Youth, Jason's 13 year old all-star team made it all the way to the Pony World Series. During the various games leading up to the world series finale, Jason was mainly a pinch hitter getting in here and there. Early in the final series of games, Jason was taken off the bench and put in full-time because of his consistent hitting. In the finale, the Simi Youth team was pitted against a team from Puerto Rico. All the members of the Puerto Rican team had mustaches. We joked that the players had their children with them at the game (as they all looked to be in their 20's). In a heartbreaking end to the series, the US Pony team lost 1-0 to Puerto Rico, but Jason was crowned the World Series batting Champion. It was a moment I will never forget.
On a side note, Jason played most of those Simi Youth years with Christian Yelich, the same Christian Yelich who may become the MVP of the MLB National League. The difference between the two of them was that when Christian was tired of his time in the batting cage, his dad would make him stay in there awhile longer and keep hitting. I am sure that is where he perfected his hitting skills and patience. Instead, when Jason became bored in the batting cage, given we were also bored, we would let him out and head to Wana Iguana or some other restaurant for a post workout/game meal with his buddies.
In high school, Jason became a member of the Chaminade Eagles baseball team, playing on the varsity squad his last few years. He had his ups and downs in high school baseball, but he loved the members of the team and had the greatest times in the dugout motivating and inspiring his team or just talking non-stop about whatever was on his mind. He was a pitcher and played many other positions. He perfected his goofy palm ball that would drive batters crazy. He won the Coach's Award for Best Spirit and Heart his junior year. One of Jason's funniest moments in high school baseball came at the expense of himself. A pop fly was hit near the third base fence. Jason ran quickly to the ball and thinking this might be his ESPN Sports Center moment, he climbed the fence and reached out for the ball. Only problem was the ball dropped 3 feet before the fence. Jason's dugout and the teammates on the field burst into laughter. Jason hopped off the fence, shrugged and started laughing himself. Always the character.
I am sure Jason will be up there watching and cheering the Dodgers on to victory.
Dude, I love you and always will and I will miss you dearly every day for the rest of my life.... mom
JASON'S TOT T-BALL VIDEO
SIMI YOUTH CUBS WINNING THE LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP (A little long and shaky, but fun to watch if you are interested)
Hi, I'm Jan Franklin. I am and will always be Jason Franklin's mother. He was everything to me. He brought such joy to me and so many others in his short life. I will never ever forget him.