This isn't exactly the type of diet most elite-level athletes are associated with. In fact, other than dating a supermodel, Mariners infield...
PEORIA, Ariz. — This isn’t exactly the type of diet most elite-level athletes are associated with.
In fact, other than dating a supermodel, Mariners infield prospect Nick Franklin just might be living the closest thing to the all-American male fantasy when it comes to his food choices. Since last fall, Franklin has been on what he says is a 6,500-calorie-per-day eating regimen that flip-flops meals between an Italian joint, a Mexican place and a pasta bakery when he isn’t slurping down gut-busting milk shakes in between.
It’s part of a plan the former first-round draft pick hopes will take him from the 6-foot-1, 162-pound frame he finished last season with to a 200-pound body by opening day. He arrived at spring training weighing 196 pounds — a 34-pound gain from last September — and drawing plenty of second glances wherever he goes.
“Last year, during the season, I felt my body starting to collapse on me,” Franklin said of a 2012 season split between Class AA and AAA. “At the end of August, I weighed 162 pounds and I was hitting balls to the gap that probably should have been out and they ended up going off the wall. One of them bounced to the wall.
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“Those balls could have been out, so I wanted to put a lot of weight on and try to get to at least 200 pounds by the end of the spring, take the season from there and see whether I can maintain it.”
To do that, Franklin starts each morning off with a 1,500-calorie breakfast consisting of six scrambled eggs — yolks included — and a high-caloric protein shake.
By 10:30 a.m., he’ll have another 500-calorie shake and then throw in a 1,500-calorie lunch by noon. At 2 p.m., there’s another 500-calorie shake, a 250-calorie shake at 3 p.m. and then a 500-calorie shake to “hold me over” until a 1,500-calorie dinner.
When he doesn’t have time to cook breakfast, he’ll pop by the local Chick-fil-A. Franklin has already been spotted in the clubhouse here scarfing down chicken sandwiches before team workouts.
His lunch choices often involve Chipotle Mexican Bar and Grill. “If you get a bowl there, it’s really big,” he said. “Double-chicken is like 800 calories — it’s insane.” He also likes The Corner Bakery because “the pasta there is really good, too.”
He likes to dine at Carrabba’s Italian Grill for dinner, usually consisting of “chicken alfredo and some kind of vegetable like broccoli or peas.”
His mother helps out by plying him with gift cards to those favored chain restaurants. Franklin tries to keep as close to 6,500 calories per day as he can, though he sometimes falls short and admits it isn’t as easy as it sounds to just eat.
“Honestly, there are some days where I just want to let it all go,” he said. “It’s hard to hold it down sometimes. Other than that, I feel like I’m on a full stomach the entire day. There’s not one point where I’m hungry. I’m always full when I’m eating, let’s just say that. I’m always eating when I’m not supposed to be eating.”
The eating plan was designed by Jeff Higuera, a performance coach Franklin has trained with since he was a teenager. Higuera has a degree in kinesiology and co-owns Competitor Gym in Orlando with former NFL veteran Kawika Mitchell, and their clients include professional football and baseball players.
Higurea put Franklin on the diet and then he and Mitchell trained him rigorously all winter. Franklin quickly gained 10 pounds before the Arizona Fall League in October and then — once that was done — threw himself right back into gym work.
“His work ethic is second to none,” Higuera said. “Nick’s a special kid. He’s got unbelievable power. He’s probably the strongest baseball player that I’ve worked with.”
And one of the few that Higuera could put on a daily diet of 6,000 calories or more.
“You don’t do it with everybody,” he said. “Really, it’s about his age. You’re not going to see a guy who is 30 years old put on that kind of weight over that amount of time.”
The difference, he added, is that Franklin’s muscles are just starting to develop beyond the “rail thin kid” who first came to him in 2008 before his senior year in high school. “What it comes down to is it was great timing with his body and his hormones.”
Higuera monitored Franklin to see that he didn’t take on too much extra body fat. Franklin also kept a close eye on his speed and agility work to make sure he didn’t lose quickness with all of the bulk he added to his frame.
To compensate for the weight gain, he focused on building up the lower part of his body, eventually managing a personal-best 425 pounds on the squat rack. Franklin says he’s felt good doing the first few drills this spring and hasn’t lost any mobility.
Mariners manager Eric Wedge says he’s impressed by how much size Franklin gained and is eager to see how it translates on the field. The gains aren’t so evident in Franklin’s upper body, but are clearly visible in his lower half starting from the waist down.
The Mariners have yet to decide whether Franklin will remain a shortstop or shift over to second base. They have shortstop prospect Brad Miller in Class AA and Dustin Ackley already playing second.
For now, they’ll work Franklin out at both positions. They nearly traded the former first-round pick to Arizona last month as part of the package in the aborted Justin Upton deal, so his future here remains up in the air.
“I’ll play left field if they need me to do it,” Franklin said jokingly.
In other words, for now, he isn’t going to fret about the non-trade or where he fits. After all, he’s already got enough extra weight he’s trying to carry.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @gbakermariners