Frankie Reed Joins Great Closers for Wichita Wingnuts
The Wichita Wingnuts have only been a professional baseball team since 2008, but in that short duration of time they have quickly established themselves as the cream of the crop in independent baseball. Seven straight playoff appearances and three trips to the American Association Championship series, including winning in 2014, makes this the team that many others attempt to pattern their own organization after.
It is not just a philosophy on how to build a team that makes the Wingnuts so great, but it is the exceptional players that have helped to build this organization into arguably the best in the game. Men like Kevin Hooper, Brent Clevlen, David Perralta, Jon Link, CJ Ziegler, and Jake Kahaulelio are just some of the well-known figures who have dawned a Wingnuts uniform, as the team has always found incredible talent to help them stay on top.
There has probably been no position that the team has been more committed to building around than the closer. The Wichita Wingnuts are synonymous for finding guys who are absolutely cold-blooded when they enter the ninth inning. Relief pitchers that, when they enter the game, opponents already start to pack their gear bags and begin planning their post-game dinner plans. Men like Josh Drew, Dakota Watts, Matt Nevarez, and Justin Dowdy have helped to build that aura over the years, and this season the team has another closer who has already established himself in the pantheon of great Wichita Wingnuts relievers. His name is Frankie Reed.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Ballpark
They say that some men are destined for greatness, while others have it thrust upon them. While Frankie Reed falls into the latter part of that statement, one can say that it has been a very interesting twist of events that led the Wingnuts closer to his current role with the team. Prior to the season, the left-hander was not even sure if he wanted to return to play baseball and he entered the season as the team’s primary setup man. However, a series of events changed the course of history and this season he finds himself not only having what may be the finest season of his career, but also he has been named to the American Association All-Star team.
The Career that Almost Wasn’t
While many marvel at the skill and mental toughness of Frankie Reed, the truth is that this has been a career that almost did not occur at all. Frankie was introduced to the sport of baseball early on in life, but was finding that it wasn’t something he was really enjoying right off. He almost walked away from it all together, but a word of encouragement brought him back to the diamond.
“My parents put me in it at the beginning. I almost quit when I was seven-years-old, but my coach came back to me and said, ‘Hey, we really want you to play.’ I was like, ‘I don’t know’ and my parents really left it up to me. So I went back and loved it. I love the game and the competitiveness; playing on the team is something that can’t be described and I am glad he helped me to change my mind.”
While he enjoyed playing baseball, the left-hander was not committed only to that sport growing up. He played many different sports, but when he got to high school he did not make the basketball team. That left him playing just football and baseball, but he began to realize that baseball was the sport that he had the best chance of being successful in.
“I knew that baseball was the sport I was really progressing at in more. I had a longer future and a better future in baseball and I could get further in baseball than I could in football.”
Frankie attended Simi Valley High School where he was an absolute star. The lefty set school records for saves in a season, recording 7-saves in both 2005 and 2006, career saves (14) and most appearances in a season (21). He also showed incredible control, setting a school record for best walk to innings pitched ratio at a miniscule 0.16 walks per nine innings pitched. It was all coming up roses for Reed, but a fluke accident led to a change of direction.
“I had scouts looking me in high school and actually got hurt. I was bunting a ball and smashed my finger, and that kind of took me out of my senior season.”
Frankie had looked at attending UC-Riverside, UC-Santa Barbara, and UC-Irvine, but the injury took away some of his options. This led him to attend Cal Poly Technical Institute.
A School Deep in Tradition
One may not think of the Mustangs as the ideal baseball school, but that is as far from the truth as it gets. Former Major Leaguers, such as Mike Krukow and John Orton, went there, and all-time great Ozzie Smith is a former Mustang. Even the Laredo Lemurs Matt Bywater went there and was a teammate of Frankie’s.
Despite the setback when he was a senior, the future looked quite bright for Frankie Reed, however his career at Cal Poly did not start off well. He would hurt his arm his freshman year and required Tommy John surgery. That allowed him to appear in just 22-games in 2007 and wiped out his entire 2008 and 2009 seasons.
In 2010, he returned looking to build up the arm strength and gain his command back. He would make 23-appearances that season and record 2-saves. In 2011, his numbers improved as the lefty posted a 1-3 record, a 4.86 ERA, and 3-saves. He also saw the command of his pitches return as he walked just 12-batters in 37-innings pitched while striking out 45.
It was an impressive return to form and the Miami Marlins thought so as well. They drafted Frankie in the 27th round of the 2011 draft and his professional career was about to begin.
A True Professional
Frankie Reed began his professional career with the Marlins rookie league team. He made just 4-appearances there, posting an impressive 1.59 ERA before being promoted. The left-hander was moved to short-season Jamestown where he went 1-1 with a 6.11 ERA in 12-appearances.
It was not exactly the start that Frankie had envisioned, but with his mindset and dedication to his craft there was no doubt that he would rebound the following season. That is exactly what he did. In 2012, he returned to Jamestown where he made 16-appearances, posting an impressive 2.45 ERA and going 2-1 with 3-saves. That led the Marlins organization to promote him to Mid-A Greensboro where he was 2-0 in 5-appearances there.
The one thing that became very impressive about the left-hander was the fact that he always seemed to improve in his second season at any level. In 2013, he returned to Greensboro where he reduced his ERA from 4.15 to 0.60 in 2013. Frankie was 5-0 with 12-saves, an incredibly impressive set of statistics that led the Marlins to promote him once again. After making 36-appearances in Greensboro, the left-handed reliever moved to High-A Jupiter where he made 10 more appearances and posted a 0.75 ERA.
The 2013 season gave great indications of what was to come. Frankie Reed had proven that he had the kind of stuff that could make him a top reliever in the game, and in 2014 he continued on what looked like a very productive pathway. Frankie started out in Jupiter once again, but was moved to AA-Jacksonville by the end of the season. Combined he went 4-2 with a 3.51 ERA, and it looked like he was going to be a rising star within the Marlins organization.
In 2015, things took a completely unexpected turn. He began the season in Jacksonville where he struggled slightly. He posted a 4.43 ERA in 14-appearances, and the Marlins, surprisingly, decided to release him. To say that the left-hander was stunned is an incredible understatement. He had proven that he had the stuff to succeed within the organization and had always taken his game to a higher level each successive year. However, this did not seem to be enough for the Marlins.
Taking His Place Among the Greats in Team History
Looking for an opportunity to stay in the game, Frankie Reed opted to join the Wichita Wingnuts baseball team. The left-hander immediately became a key part of the bullpen for the 2015 season. In 21-apperances, he posted a solid 3.00 ERA, striking out 20 in 18-innings pitched. He also only allowed 10-hits in those games.
Clearly, the team wanted him back for the 2016 season. However, Frankie was not even sure that he wanted to return to the game at all.
“They asked me to come back this year and I was struggling for a little bit whether I really wanted to come back, but they asked me to come back and I was happy to do so. I wasn’t ready to be done pitching so I wanted to really give it one more shot. I really like it here a lot; it’s a great organization.”
His return has been an absolute godsend for the Wichita Wingnuts. The season began with the idea that Andrew Taylor would be the closer, but an injury opened the door for Frankie to command that position. He has done it with incredible success, posting a 4-3 record with 12-saves and a 1.91 ERA. His save total is fourth in the American Association and earned him a place in the league’s All-Star game. It clearly has been a very impressive season for the left-hander.
The Mindset to Succeed
The numbers speak for themselves. Frankie Reed has proven that he has the talent to thrive as a closer. However, there is a lot more to the lefty than just numbers and statistics. It is the mental portion of the game that makes him the perfect reliever. Not only does he embrace the pressure packed role of being a closer, but actually relishes the opportunities that it provides.
“I love closing. I closed a little bit a few years ago and I think closing is great because you always know when you’re going to pitch. Closing is one of those things where if you go in there and you throw strikes, they have to swing the bat. If you’re throwing strikes you’re going to get guys out. I love it, I love the pressure, I love being in the moment. If I can’t be a starter that is the next best position I want to be in.”
This is the ultimate one-on-one battle to the Wingnuts reliever. This is his opportunity to prove that he’s better than the person standing 60’6” away from him. In all honesty, Frankie doesn’t even care who the person is that is standing at home plate. He’s going to come up there looking to give his best stuff in daring them to prove that they are the better man.
“I don’t hardly ever pay attention to what hitter is at the plate. I pay more attention to if it’s a lefty or righty and how their swings are off me and how I’m throwing. Other than that I faced a lot of people in my life and I don’t even know half their names. I pay a lot more attention to my strengths than to their weaknesses.”
It is that kind of mindset that has made Frankie Reed the ideal person to be closing games for the Wichita Wingnuts. With his frame of mind, ability to thrive under pressure, and incredible talent he has taken his name among the greats that have closed out games for the team. Now he looks to display that talent at the American Association All-Star game Tuesday night. He has already proven that his name belongs among the greats in team history; now he proves it belongs with the greats of the league as well.
By Robert Pannier
Member of IBWAA