Kevin Frandsen has been given a new lease on his professional baseball life by the Philadelphia Phillies. He’s made the Opening Day roster and can breathe easier. Getting a new lease on life was something his older brother David didn’t receive.
Following last Sunday’s game against the Boston Red Sox, the Phillies announced they had granted shortstop/utility infielder Yuniesky Betancourt’s requested release. It was not an easy decision with Betancourt hitting at a .447 pace and playing solid defense.
Frandsen, on the other hand, had been hitting in the .260-.270 range. Like Betancourt, Frandsen is sound on defense but relies on the strength of his hitting game to keep him in the lineup.
In part, Frandsen was kept on the Phillies roster because he is a known asset in the clubhouse and is well-liked and respected. His personality is upbeat and game day cameras often show him with impish grins from ear-to-ear.
He’s the kind of guy you hope your daughter brings home as the chosen one.
Frandsen has been well-traveled in his professional baseball career. Drafted in 2004 by the San Francisco Giants, he made his pro debut in 2006. A ruptured Achilles’ tendon forced him to miss the entire 2008 season.
Just prior to the 2010 season, Frandsen was traded to the Red Sox, and a month later he was claimed off waivers by the Los Angeles Angels. Then at the beginning of the 2011 season, Frandsen was acquired by the San Diego Padres and was almost immediately released. It was at this point the Phillies signed him to a minor league contract. He spent the 2011 season with the Phillies Triple-A farm team, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.
Last season Frandsen got his chance when Phillies third baseman Placido Polanco became injured. He was recalled from the Iron Pigs in late July and quickly asserted himself as a capable replacement for the venerable Polanco.
Frandsen played in 55 games, starting at third base in 49 of them. His stats are noteworthy as he topped out at .338 with 10 doubles and 2 home runs in 195 at-bats. Now that he’s been given another chance to build on 2012, Frandsen has the potential to provide a spark to what can be at times, a lackluster offense.
But, there’s another heart-wrenching side to his story. Like most hitters, Frandsen has a ritual at home plate including a pattern of practice swings, adjustments to his helmet and batting glove, and some batter’s box dirt rearranging. What separates his routine from other hitters is his habit of reaching back over his right shoulder and patting himself on the back.
The pat on the back is not self-congratulatory.
Instead, it’s a simple reminder of his older brother, David Frandsen Jr., better known as “D.J.” David died on September 16, 2004 after a 19-year battle with cancer. He was 25.
Frandsen has the initials “DJ” tattooed with the number 19, D.J.’s favorite number just below his neck.
Frandsen is a scrappy-type ballplayer. His uniform seems to get dirty just walking across the field before a game begins. He’s not one to complain. D.J. was like that too.
When Kevin would ask D.J. how he was doing, D.J. always deflected the question and was more interested in how many hits his kid brother had produced in that day’s game.
Throughout his struggle, D.J. seldom missed his younger brother’s games. And, when Kevin was drafted by the Giants in the 2004 baseball draft, a physically weakened D.J. joyously ran around outside the family home celebrating his brother’s good fortune.
In honor of D.J., the Frandsen family started a philanthropic foundation to benefit Frandsen’s high school alma mater. Frandsen also founded a program called, “Second To None” in which he spends time with the sisters and brothers of those undergoing cancer treatments.
It’s all part of who Kevin Frandsen is as a person. And, he’s motivated to succeed, not just for the Phillies, but perhaps more so for D.J.