With the completion of the field by the gym building, the Franklin baseball team is back to batting on home turf, something that hasn’t been done since the move to the Marshall location. Last year’s start of the season was spent at Walker Stadium in Lents Park. In regards to the new field, it’s one of the better high school facilities around, quickly drying after rainy days to keep games on schedule. “The maintenance crews for PPS do a great job, but they’re so overworked,” says head varsity coach Andy Berger. Alongside the finished field, the Franklin renovation gives students access to a batting cage, use of the gym, and the turf field when middle school track isn’t running.
This year’s varsity team has four seniors, double compared to last season. There were only seventeen students in the program last year, but it’s doubled to over thirty now and shows signs that it will continue to grow. Because of the smaller teams, freshmen are often played up for the circumstance.“Normally we like them to grow and have some success on the lower levels, and we threw them in the fire right away,” says Berger. This year has a solid JV2 team for prospective future years. The growth is in part due to the spring middle school program hosted at Franklin, supported by PIL athletics for 8th graders to run track and play baseball. In regards to some seniors, Dash Pederson (12) is going to Pitzer to play football, and Sam Brinda (12) received several scholarships to join the marching band at Linfield College. “It takes a lot to play [baseball] after high school,” Berger comments.
Another game changer this year is that Berger brought on two assistants who played for him at Central Catholic, to spread out coaching abilities. The season compared to last year went from four wins to nine wins, a clear indication of growth. “For a short four year span there just wasn’t a lot of kids that wanted to play baseball,” says Berger. Now there are more kids playing in the summer and strong incoming freshmen from Franklin’s spring program, which will drive up the wins. The majority of varsity will be returning next year, knowing what to expect, and providing veteran experience.
Coach Berger went to Corvallis High and returned to coach there after graduating from University of Portland. There he worked with Steve Pyne (Central Catholic’s current, head football coach) who got the head job at Wilson and Berger went with him there. He got on Pyne’s football staff, then coached basketball, and then back to baseball, where he worked with Mike Clopton. Berger describes him as “a legend for his accomplishments in coaching,” holding the fourth most wins among Oregon coaches (613 wins over 51 years). From there, Berger transitioned to Central Catholic and got to coach with Tom Campbell, the coach with the second most wins among Oregon coaches: 649 wins over 37 years, and still actively coaching. “I’ve been fortunate to coach with some really good high school coaches,” Berger says. There was an opening at Franklin for head baseball coach when Berger was coaching football for Westview. Between staying at Westview as an assistant coach or taking the Franklin job, Berger saw his opportunity.
“Every day it’s fun to come to practice because the kids at Franklin are really good,” says Berger. This is Berger’s fourth year coaching baseball and “there’s never been a day where [he] didn’t want to come to practice or to a game.” The future is looking very bright for FHS baseball. “I think baseball is going to start taking a bigger stride, and get back to where it used to be,” Berger says.