Flashback Friday 11/20: Frankie

Frankie Laureano, All-Star Second Baseman for Appleton Foxes in 1987. (Post-Crescent File Photo)

By Chris Mehring / Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | November 20, 2009 7:03 AM

This week

This week's Flashback takes a look at one of the first stars in the Royals-era of Appleton Foxes baseball.  Francisco Laureano was 19 years old when he was playing for the Foxes in 1987.  He hit a lot of home runs, played a smooth second base, and was still learning the professional game.  Plus, he picked up the more Americanized version of his name, Frankie Laureano.

Gary Shriver has the story (and some interesting notes) from the July 26, 1987 edition of The Post-Crescent.

Laureano makes a hit in pro ball

The Kansas City Royals have to be impressed by the season the Appleton Foxes' second baseman Frankie Laureano is having.

Laureano currently is hitting .319 with 13 homers and 60 RBI and leads the Midwest League in hits.  He was also selected to play in the All-Star game, where he slammed a 3-run home run.

But perhaps the thing the Royals like best about Laureano is the fact that he's only 19 years old.

While most professional players his age are usually only midway through a season in a rookie league, Laureano already is in his third season of organized baseball, including his second in the Midwest League.

Laureano, a native of the Dominican Republic , signed with the Royals in 1985 and played his first season with Puerto Plata, a professional team in the Dominican Republic .

"It's a league that several major league teams have clubs in," said Foxes' Pitching Coach Mike Alvarez.  "It's a league for younger players giving them a year to adjust to pro ball in their own countries."

Last season, Laureano played with Burlington of the Midwest League, which at the time consisted of players from both Montreal and Kansas City farm systems.  Laureano hit .275 with seven homers and 37 RBI.  His numbers this season would certainly indicate that things are much better for the second baseman the second time around.

"It's mainly a matter of knowing the league better, of getting a year of experience," said Laureano.  "Last season, I was taking a lot more pitches than I am this year.  I think that's the main reason I have hit more home runs.  I think that I've also been helped by the fact that I've hit in the four- or five-position most of the season.  Last season, I started out batting ninth.  Later on I led off, and during the course of the year was moved up and down in the order."

His current numbers, as good as they are, don't tell the entire story about how valuable Laureano was to the Foxes early in the season.  During April and May, while much of the team was still adjusting to Appleton , Laureano's bat keyed the Foxes' attack, allowing the team to get off to a good start.

"He, Patt Bailey, and Kenny Jackson were our offensive firepower during that time," said Foxes' Manager Ken Berry.  "He must have hit .350 or .360 during May, and I nominated him for player-of-the-month.  He really helped to carry us until everyone else got involved.

The Dominican Republic , with an area of less than 20,000 square miles and a population of less than five million, occupies the eastern two-third of the island of Hispanola , which it shares with Haiti .  This country has, however, produced gifted baseball players out of all proportion to its size.

"There are several players from my home town (Santa Domingo) in the league right now, including Springfield shortstop Bien Figueroa (another All-Star)," said Laureano.  "I think we have so many players because the weather is warm back home and we can play all year, and the fact that baseball is the major sport."

The Dominican players are probably also helped by the fact that most of them are single-minded as far as career objectives are concerned - to play baseball, to play it well and to play it eventually at the major league level.

"I want to make the big leagues.  That's all I want to do," said Laureano.

"He's a good prospect," said Berry .  "He's having a good year with the bat, but he'll have to learn to go the other way.  He's certainly capable of hitting the long ball, but sometimes he tends to try to hit that a little too much.  He's also a steady influence on the club, despite only being 19.  He's a good fielder, but needs to improve his range a bit."  

Cooper retired from baseball in 1949 and went on to become the chairman of the physical education department at Texas A&I in Kingsville , Texas , until his retirement this spring.  Cooper was responsible for recruiting several area basketball players who attended that school.  

  • Pitcher Mike Butcher, who rejoined the Foxes Thursday after spending a month with Ft. Myers of the Florida State League, will fill the place of pitcher Gary Peters on the roster.  Peters was placed on the disabled list.
  • Catcher Pat Bailey is expected to rejoin the Foxes in Peoria after being called up to the Royals' Class AAA Omaha affiliate.  Bailey was moved to that club to fill in because of injuries.

NOTES AND REACTIONS

1.) Laureano finished the season with 16 homers and a .323 batting average. He was not only a mid-season All-Star in the MWL, but -- according to an article from later in the season - also a post-season MWL All-Star at second base.  Other players on that 1987 post-season all-star squad were: 

Outfielders: Greg Vaughn ( Beloit ), Greg Ritchie ( Clinton ) and Jerome Walton ( Peoria )

First base: Mark Leonard ( Clinton )

Shortstop: Bien Figueroa ( Springfield )

Third Base: Keith Lockhart ( Cedar Rapids )

Catcher: Todd Zeile ( Springfield )

Designated Hitter: Victor Garcia ( Peoria )

Right-handed starter: Bob Farron ( Springfield )

Left-handed starter: Trevor Wilson ( Clinton )

Right-handed reliever: Mike Perez ( Springfield )

Left-handed reliever: Bob Glisson ( Springfield )

Co-MVP of the MWL in 1987: Vaughn and Zeile

Manager of the Year: Don Leppert ( Kenosha )

2.) Laureano did not make it to the majors.  He made it as high as Triple-A Omaha in 1991.  He appeared in six games and hit .153.  He was let go after the 1991 season and did not sign with anyone else.

3.) Over the final four seasons of his career, Laureano never hit more than four homers in a season.  In fact, he hit just 13 homers over the final 482 games of his career.  Those 16 homers with the Foxes came in 139 games.

4.) On that Co-op team in Burlington with the Expos and the Royals.  Laureano was teammates with Larry Walker.

5.) Stu Cooper played 11 games for the Lockport Cubs in the PONY ( Pennsylvania - Ontario - New York ) League in 1943.  There was a gap in his career from 1943 to 1946.  It doesn't say anything, but I am guessing that service in the military for World War II had something to do with that gap.  In 1946, he hit .278 with a homer for the Papermakers.  Cooper went on to play for two teams in 1947 and one team in 1948 before hanging up the spikes.  Also, Texas A&I-Kingsville is now Texas A&M-Kingsville.

6.) Noteable graduates of that school include Al Harris of the Green Bay Packers, Gene Upshaw, Darrell Green, and Eva Longoria...repeating...EVA LONGORIA!

7.) I have done some research in to Stewart 'Stu' Cooper.  Instead of adding the information on to this column, I am going to put the article that I found from a November, 2007 Javelina Hash column in the Texas A&M-Kingsville sports department publication Javelinas Highlights in next week's Flashback.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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