John Franco has made it in life. He is now trying to make sure New York City’s youth have the opportunities and guidance to help them make it too.
The former New York Mets reliever and Bensonhurst native played 21 years in the Major League, one of the few among millions of aspiring ball players who have gotten to do so.
Franco’s message to young people is to find their passion and go after it — no matter what anyone says. Like when Franco was a high school pitcher at Lafayette and two scouts told him that he’d never make it in baseball. He played harder and proved them wrong.
“Work hard, live out your dream,” Franco said. “Don’t let anyone tell you want you can’t do. If you put enough time and effort into anything you can do whatever you want.”
That’s what he told a diverse audience of more than 100 people as part of a panel with WFAN radio personality Craig Carton and Brooklyn Cyclones Assistant General Manager Gary Perone at the second-annual George Kalafatis Leadership in Sports Conference at Long Island University last Thursday afternoon.
The three of them run the NYC All-Stars Sports Group, which provides chances for New York City kids to play and learn the sports they love.
But Franco also pointed out that it’s good to have a backup plan if the dream doesn’t quite work out.
Kalafatis was arguably the best baseball player in LIU history. He had a stellar career in the minors, never reached the majors, but went on to be a successful sports agent. Kalafatis is an example of someone who made the most of his skills and connections in life. Your best effort is all you can ask to give in life.
“As long as you can look in the mirror one day and say ‘I gave it my all,’ no one can take that away from you,” Carton said.
There are when times doing that isn’t easy. Franco and the rest of the panel stressed that part of having opportunities in life is seizing them, not missing them or wasting them.
As a freshman at St. John’s, Franco thought about quitting as the grind of playing college ball got to him. He wasn’t going to class and got put on probation, but then his father told him a scholarship and a chance to make a career in baseball should not be tossed aside.
“I took that advice from my dad,” Franco said. “Thank God I did take that advice, because who knows where I’d be today.”