He turns 56 in August, but Julio Franco won’t accept that his playing days are over. Almost seven years since he last played in the big leagues, Franco joined the Fort Worth Cats of the independent United League as a player/coach.
Playing for the Cats will allow Franco to play professionally in his fifth decade. He signed his first pro contract with the Phillies in 1978 and made his major league debut with them in 1982 and was National League Rookie of the Year the next season. His last season in the majors was 2007, with the Braves.
Franco plans to join the Cats for their first homestand of the season, which begins Tuesday against the Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings.
Franco was 42 when the Braves bought his contract from the Mexico City Tigers. At an age when most players walk away from the game, Franco flourished again. He batted .291 in 501 games with the Braves, hitting 29 homers and driving in 179 runs.
In his 23 major league seasons, he batted .298 with 2,586 hits. He hit 173 homers, drove in 1,194 runs and had a .365 on-base percentage.