Living a Baseball Life in a Three-team League…A Conversation With Coty Franklin, West Michigan MABL
By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications
The West Michigan MABL, located in Holland Michigan, became part of the MSBL family in 2021 and consists of three teams. Well, sort of.
“We play double-headers every Sunday because we have two fully rostered teams and a third that needs pick-up players every week,” says original member Coty Franklin and current member of the Woods. “We have one very good field we play on every week and play two games on Sunday. It’s a combination of good competition and a day with good friends, regardless of the outcome.”
Coty is 29 years old and is also the varsity baseball coach at Holland High School, as well as giving time to his day job with a financial investment company located in Grand Rapids.
“Fortunately, I am able to work from home, which makes a huge difference with time commitments.”
League President Paul Neumann recommended we speak with Coty, as his dedication is well-noted within the league.
“Coty has been with our league from the start in 2021,” said Neumann. “He’s one of our most reliable guys, a solid pitcher, and one of our best hitters. He pitched at Hope College and is the head coach of the varsity baseball team at our local Holland High School. He makes our league better.”
Coty pitched for Hope College in Holland in 2014, 2015, and 2016, as both a starter and reliever. We asked him how he transitioned from college pitcher to the West Michigan MABL.
“My father-in-law saw an ad in the paper and told me about it. I emailed Paul to find out more and I started playing right away. I just play right now and don’t manage because of my commitments elsewhere and it wouldn’t be fair to stretch too thin.”
Holland, Michigan is relatively small with a population of 34,000 but a smaller, close community is something that Coty is used to.
“I grew up in Vermontville and went to Maple Valley School and our graduating class had 86 kids. I played Little League and then a travel team until college. There weren’t a lot of baseball opportunities for me but I made the best of it.”
Coty and his bride of four years, Audrey, live in Holland and love the lifestyle and the league. He has always been a big Tigers fan and admired Justin Verlander growing up, especially since they were both pitchers. I also asked Coty what makes the league so successful and what the plans are for the future.
“Paul (Neumann) and his brothers make the league tick. They are always out there prepping fields, organizing the teams, contacting everyone, and making sure things run smoothly. They are hands-on and their passion shows. We hope to not only solidify the three teams but expand to five or six teams in a couple of years.
We offer the community an alternative to softball and allow players to relive their baseball memories. We are pretty much an open-division league so we need to attract the players who get out of high school and may not be able to play college ball. I have an inside track since I am a high school coach. I’ll start recruiting them right away!”
To conclude our conversation, and expand on baseball memories, I asked Coty if he had a special memory from his years on the diamond. After a few moments of thought, he came up with a performance that anyone would be proud of.
“Back in high school, we had a league rule that you could only pitch ten innings per week. In our first District playoff game, I had a no-hitter after 4 2/3 innings with 11 strikeouts and us up six or seven runs. The coach decided to take me out to save my innings.
Later in the tournament, I went in to relieve and I had ten more strikeouts. I ended up with 21 strikeouts in ten innings. That’s going to be tough to beat in the years ahead!”
We have many leagues in the MSBL family that boast 40, 50, or 60 teams, or more, but after speaking with Coty, I have no doubt that this three-team league has every bit as much fun. Success isn’t calculated by the numbers but by the heart and passion in playing our great game. Congratulations West Michigan!