After a solid 2014 season that saw him earn his first in-season promotion, Seth Frankoff did not sit idle. The Oakland A's relief prospect traveled far and wide to continue to hone his skills. His first stop during the off-season was the Dominican Republic, where he suited up for the Estrellas de Oriente. Frankoff appeared in five games for the Estrellas, allowing two runs in four innings.
Frankoff's travels didn't stop there. A few weeks after his stint in the Dominican ended, Frankoff flew to Venezuela to suit up for Navegantes del Magallanes of the Venezuelan Winter League. In three VWL appearances, Frankoff was nearly flawless. He allowed no runs on two hits and a walk, and he struck-out seven.
The eight innings of winter league work added onto Frankoff's 2014 total of 64.1 innings. Split between Double-A and Triple-A, Frankoff posted a 3.36 ERA and a 69:21 K:BB during the regular season. He saved 18 games and made the Texas League All-Star game.
Last weekend, Frankoff joined first baseman Max Muncy and newly acquired right-hander Kendall Graveman as the Oakland A's representatives at the MLB Rookie Career Development Program. Designed to prepare prospects on the verge of making their major league debuts for the next step, the program takes place just outside of Washington, D.C.
We caught-up with Frankoff this week to learn more about his experience at the Rookie Career Development Program, as well as his time playing winter league baseball.
OaklandClubhouse: You have had quite an off-season, playing in two different winter leagues and attending the MLB Rookie Career Development program in Washington, D.C. Have you ever had an off-season like this one?
Seth Frankoff: I can definitely say that I have been well-traveled this off-season. [laughs]
OC: First I wanted to talk to you about your experience with the Rookie Career Development program and then chat about your winter league experiences. What did you take away from your weekend in that MLB program?
SF: They certainly gave us quite a bit of information. They started off with the transition to the big leagues. The biggest focus was dealing with the media because it’s not like back in the days when guys in the ‘80s and even the ‘90s were playing and you basically had a face-to-face conversation with any media member. Social media has really taken over. They basically tried to educate us. It’s tough enough to get to the big leagues and stay in the big leagues just between the white lines, but with all of the other external factors off of the field, they tried to educate us on ways that we can get as much longevity out of our careers as possible.
OC: Did they have you listening to speakers or practicing interviews? What kind of things did they do to teach you about dealing with the media?
SF: We had some large group seminars when everyone was in there and they actually had a comedy group called Second City that I guess has helped them out with the program since it has been in existence. They would enact some skits to illustrate points. There was also player participation. They divided up into groups and we had to make our own skits pertaining to different situations. There were on-stage interviews and smaller discussion groups. It was pretty interactive. There was some sitting back and taking notes, but there was also a lot of interaction to keep us actively engaged.
OC: Max Muncy was also there from the Oakland A’s organization, but did you know many other players that were a part of the program, or was that the first time you had met most of them?
SF: Half-and-half really. Some of them we had played against. There were also quite a few guys who Max and I had played with in the Fall League last year, so there was some familiarity there. But there were also some new faces that maybe some guys we had heard of but from especially the AL East or NL East teams that we have hardly ever – if at all – played against. There wasn’t quite the familiarity with those guys unless we had met them before we had gotten into professional baseball.
OC: I know you are originally from not too far from the D.C.-area (North Carolina). Had you see much of D.C. before you went on that trip?
SF: Yes, I’m very fortunate that my family traveled around quite a bit and allowed us to see quite a bit. While we were there with the Rookie Development Program, we got to tour Capitol Hill and go to the Capitol Building and have dinner there. Also, they walked us through the whole Capitol Building. We were actually addressed by a Congressman from the state of Texas who had actually played professional baseball. We were addressed by him in the House of Representatives.
That was an awesome experience and something I had never had a chance to do before. Without those connections, I probably wouldn’t be able to do it again.
OC: Before you went to D.C., you had the opportunity to play in both the Dominican and Venezuelan Winter Leagues this off-season. What was it like to play in those leagues? Were they similar or different?
SF: I would say they are very different countries. The Dominican League was an awesome experience. It was my first experience playing winter ball in Latin America. The place that I played for was Estrellas de Oriente, which is not one of the bigger teams there. But it was certainly a good opportunity for me to get some extra innings in and some experience. I certainly enjoyed my experience there, but I would say that if I was to go back, I would definitely prefer my Venezuelan experience.
The club I played for in Venezuela was named Magallanes. That is probably the most popular team down there. They took very good care of the players and I really enjoyed my time there. Not to discount my time in the Dominican League. I enjoyed my time there, but my experience in Venezuela was very good. I really enjoyed my time there.
OC: Was it hard to have such a long time off between the end of the MiLB regular season and when you pitched in the winter leagues?
SF: With us, we have a spring training to prepare. With winter ball, every game is like Game Seven of the World Series. There is no working your way into it. When they throw you in there, they expect you to be ready to go and get the job done right away. It was certainly a little different, not having that adjustment time that we have during spring training or the weeks before. You are thrown right in the fire. At the same time, you want to play games that matter. I certainly felt after my first outing that I was well equipped for the challenge and ready to go. But I will say that it was quite an eye-opening experience how seriously they take every single game there.
OC: What was it like going from a league where English is obviously the predominant language to having Spanish be the predominant language?
SF: At the field, it was fairly easy because most of the guys that we played with also played in the US. If they weren’t fluent in English, they knew pretty good amount, enough that we could communicate. I would say the more difficult part was at the hotel, especially ordering food. That could be somewhat of an adventure because you weren’t always sure what you were getting. [laughing] If you had any alterations to your order, you were kind of crossing your fingers that they were getting it right.
It was definitely a good experience. I would say that my Spanish improved immensely. Hopefully it will help me better conversate with Latin players. I would say that I guess I was put into a Latin’s player shoes. When they come to America, they kind of feel out of place. They don’t speak English quite as well and it kind of put me in their shoes to see what it’s like to be in a foreign county where your native language is not the number one language spoken there.
OC: Last year was a big season for you with the big first half with Midland and establishing yourself at the Triple-A level. It seems like it took you a few weeks to get adjusted in Triple-A, but after that you were back to your old self. What are you looking forward most to carrying over from last year into this season?
SF: I’m just looking forward to continuing to have the opportunity to go out there and prove myself. Hopefully I can continue to get the job done when I am given the opportunity and make the most of the opportunities I am given. I certainly feel like I improved last year, but last year is last year. I have to continue to go out there and get the job done and prove myself wherever I am afforded the opportunity this year.
OC: Being from the South, with the A’s moving their Triple-A affiliate to Nashville, is playing closer to home than you have throughout most of your career something you are looking forward to if you do start the season in Triple-A?
SF: Yes. Certainly Nashville is a great city. Being from the South, I have traveled there a little bit and have always had an appreciation for the city. First and foremost, I want to be in Oakland, but Nashville is not a bad trade-off in the meantime.