All in the family: Mets draft Poly Prep’s J.J. Franco

All in the family: Mets draft Poly Prep’s J.J. Franco

J.J. Franco grew up with the Mets, playing video games with Cliff Floyd; shagging fly balls in the outfield at Shea Stadium, with his father, John Franco; and rubbing elbows with Mike Piazza and Al Leiter.

So when teammates and good friends Richie Carbone and James Friel told Franco the Mets picked him in the 42nd round (1,262 overall) of the First-Year Player Draft, the Poly Prep standout didn’t believe it.

“I thought they were messing with me,” he said. “We always joke around with each other. I thought it was too much of a coincidence. Richie was really convincing, I stared to think it wasn’t a joke.”

Moment later Mets general manager Omar Minaya, a longtime friend of the family, called to offer his congratulations. Then it truly sunk in.

“It’s obviously one of the best accomplishments of my life,” said Franco, who plans to attend Brown University in the fall. “It’s something I’ve been trying to do since I was a little kid. To have this moment is kind of surreal. I grew up wanting to play for them. It’s really cool to follow in my dad’s footsteps.”

Had he been taken on the first or second day of the draft, Franco said he would’ve considered signing. The standout shortstop/right-hander led Poly Prep to four consecutive Ivy League crowns, two NYSAISAA championships, and a 56-game league winning streak. Last year, he was named the Class B Player of the Year by the New York State Sportswriters Association.

“It’s great to be recognized by professional baseball,” John Franco said. “It’s proof he did this all on his own. But he’s got a great opportunity to go to Brown University.”

Added Poly Prep coach Matt Roventini: “He should be proud of himself, he definitely deserves it. It’s another way for him to leave his mark. It’s the icing on the cake.”

One American League scout who has followed Franco’s career lauded him for his leadership qualities and defensive prowess. After three years, the scout said, Franco could go higher.

“His solid fundamental base and blue collar work ethic should give him an opportunity to perform on a consistent basis over the next few years,” the scout said.

Franco did say it was tempting, to join the same organization his dad, his hero and role model, thrived in. But he knows what professional baseball is like and he has a way to go until he is ready.

“I’m really looking forward to continuing my baseball career and trying to move on to even better things,” Franco said. “The smartest move is going to college and letting myself grow up as a player.”