Julio Franco hits at age 55 for Fort Worth Cats

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by JOE TRAHAN

Bio | Email | Follow: @joetrahan

WFAA

Posted on May 21, 2014 at 1:44 AM

Updated Wednesday, May 21 at 8:32 AM

Fort Worth -- At 55 years young, Julio Franco is back in professional baseball.

"To play again, it's a great accomplishment," said Franco. "I love the game. I love the smell of the grass; the crack of the bat."

Franco flashed his old form in batting practice. His Fort Worth Cats teammates, none of whom were born when Franco's professional career started, were simply in awe. 

"I was like 'Wow!' He's in better shape than I am and twice my age. I was like, "It's amazing,'" said outfield Julian Griffith.

Catcher Topher Scheeler had trouble processing the fact that the well-experienced professional was actually at LaGrave field helping him and his teammates.  

"It's surreal," said Scheeler. "This is the greatest day of my life. Just being out here, having him out here, his experience and everything. This is a dream come true."

Mike Marshall, a former major league pitcher, is the Cats manager and had flashbacks when he threw to Franco in batting practice.

"I was like time warp, back in the 80s. Nothing's changed -  same movement, same bat waggle, the muscles, and the ball jumping off his bat," said Marshall.

Franco played in parts of 23 major league season; five of those with the Rangers.  

He won the American League batting title in 1991. The three-time All-Star was the All-Star game MVP in 1990.

In his first at-bat on this night,  he drew a walk on five pitches and eventually came around to score.

A lot of minor league baseball is about promotion, and this one certainly worked. There was plenty of media coverage and a great crowd  But it's more than that for Franco. He hopes the time he spends here opens the door to join a major league organization.

"I don't want to be in an office. That's not me. I want to be on the field. I can help develop players," said Franco. "I can become a coach one day and maybe possibly a manager in the big leagues.  Sitting home watching TV, playing golf and going fishing is not going to cut it."

It's that kind of drive that's allowed Franco's pro career to span five decades. Timeless talent he'd like to pass on.

Email: jtrahan@wfaa.com

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