When the senior boys took the field on Saturday, July 12, 2014, they knew that they had
to win in order to have a chance to advance to Sunday’s championship game. They also knew that their opponent, the Cleveland team, had already clinched a berth in the title game and would be resting their best pitchers for that game. They would not, however, be resting their bats and after two innings, this became clear. While Indianapolis was piling up 8 runs in their first two at bats, Cleveland was keeping pace with 7 of their own, putting Indy in a precarious position. They knew they could score on Cleveland, but they
needed to slow the host team down in order to ensure victory and a chance to play their way into the championship game. That is when an unlikely candidate, a big strong lefty was called upon to shut down the opposition.
Jameson Franklin grew up as a normal little boy. He always showed high ability in school, getting good grades and test scores. As a young boy, he was always outgoing, the type of kid who never met a stranger and loved making new friends. He also loved baseball. His mother, Denise, says that he was “all about baseball from the time he could hold a ball.” At the age of three, he was hitting baseballs over the family garage with his Playskool baseball set. He tried other sports, playing a year of soccer but after a season, didn’t like it. He has also played football, but his passion all along has been baseball.
Jameson also developed problems in middle school, also very normal for many young people growing up these days. He had some anxiety issues, sometimes being unable to spend an entire night at a friend’s sleepover without calling home to be picked up. Symptoms of depression accompanied this anxiety as a 14 year old which, while controlled by medication, still caused problems. Jameson began hanging around with the wrong friends. He was making poor decisions and began under performing at school. He was eventually caught violating a serious school rule, and while he could have faced a much harsher penalty, he was expelled for a semester. Jameson’s response to being caught had a lot to do with that. He immediately owned up and admitted to his transgression. He was respectful and honest with school officials and showed no attitude about the issues he was facing. This response along with no prior problems led school officials to handle things the way they did. With a negative response, he could have been facing permanent expulsion as well as possible criminal charges.
Denise Franklin, a single mother, needed to find a way to keep Jameson busy during his semester away from school. She was worried that Jameson’s depression would be made worse by a fall and winter of sitting around the house with nothing to do. That is when she heard about RBI from a couple of Jameson’s friends who had played with the organization and decided to give Bob Haney a call. Haney didn’t hesitate and told Denise that he would put Jameson on his team and allow him to play in the fall with RBI. He knew the problems Jameson had in school, yet Haney decided to work with Jameson himself. Jameson made new friends and discovered that there were people who wouldn’t hold his past mistakes against him forever.
After playing fall baseball with RBI, Jameson returned to school in the spring. Even though he knew he wouldn’t be eligible to play, he still wanted to participate in team practices. He ran and stretched with the team, participated in drills, and pitched batting practice. He has a passion for the game and a strong desire to prove himself to the school, the coaches, and to himself. However, fate played a cruel trick on Jameson during an early practice. While pitching batting practice, he was hit in the face by a line drive. The ball struck him between the right eye and his nose, crushing his brow bone, breaking his nose, and fracturing his sinus cavity. These injuries required surgery for Jameson. Despite these injuries, as soon as he was medically cleared to return to play, he did so, this time again with the RBI summer program. Later he was asked to join the RBI senior team that was headed to Cleveland in July.
So, for many reasons, Jameson was a very unlikely candidate to save the day on that Saturday afternoon in Cleveland. If his in school problems had been held against him, he may not have been allowed to participate at all. And yet, there he was, striding to the mound a mere 90 days exactly from the date of his surgery to repair his injuries, not to mention overcoming the psychological trauma of being hit by a line drive while pitching.
This opportunity for redemption has not come without a price for Jameson. His mother is using his love of baseball as motivation to continue making good decisions and stay on a path to life success. He has to keep his grades up and work hard in school. He also has severed his ties with the friends that helped to contribute to his poor behavior and poor decisions. She credits RBI with helping turn Jameson’s life around.
She says RBI was a “wonderful opportunity” for Jameson and for any kids coming through hard times, whether they be economic or behavioral, to make new friends and find positive male role models. She says that the RBI program is absent the arrogant attitudes that can be found in more affluent neighborhood leagues where the total cost of participation can range anywhere from two thousand to eight thousand dollars. RBI made it possible for a single mother to allow her child to participate at low cost in a totally inclusive environment while doing something that he loves.
What if RBI wasn’t available to Jameson? Denise says he would have been facing a lot of boredom and loneliness while assuming the worst. It provided a bridge for Jameson to prove himself to the school in a way that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible. With this opportunity, Jameson has learned a great deal about self discipline and his counselor says that the pro-social activities are very important to help him continue his battle with depression.
It is hard to say how much of this was going through Jameson’s mind as he warmed up on the mound, preparing to pitch against Cleveland in a rather high pressure situation. An educated guess suggests that he was only focused on throwing strikes and getting batters out. Jameson faced down that Cleveland lineup that had scored seven runs in the first two innings. Three innings later, Cleveland hadn’t scored another run off the big southpaw while Jameson’s teammates had piled up 13 runs to build a commanding 21-7 lead. Jameson probably doesn’t realize that he saved the game that day. With his team on the brink of elimination, he stopped the bleeding on the scoreboard with three straight donuts.
He certainly has a right to be proud of his accomplishment that day. The stat sheet won’t give him credit for a save, but his coaches and those in attendance know he definitely saved the day. The Indianapolis team won the game 21-8 and stayed alive to advance to the title game. However, they did fall later in the day to the Cincinnati team 8-7.
As disappointing as that ending to the weekend may have been for the team, RBI has shown once again that it represents more than just wins, losses, and trophies. Jameson Franklin was given a second chance and an opportunity to get back on track. He wants to go to college someday. While those three shutout innings in Cleveland won’t help him once he is in a lecture hall on campus, his efforts this spring and the opportunity given to him by RBI may help pave the way for Jameson. From the darkness he was experiencing in school just a year ago and battling back from serious injury just a few months ago, Jameson isn’t all the way back, but he has certainly taken those most important steps…the first ones.