Life’s Curve Balls

Selected 2nd overall in 1971 MLB draft, before struggling with life’s ‘ups and downs.’

    John Franklin

My name is John Franklin and life sometimes throws you a curve ball. Since Mental Health Awareness Month finished recently and now that baseball season is in full swing, I thought this would be a good time to introduce myself since both of these have affected my life. 

Like many, I have had my ups and downs. I am a lifelong Virginian and played basketball and baseball in high school at James Madison HS in Vienna. In my younger years, I was in the “show” for a short time, playing professional baseball with the San Diego Padres in 1971. I was only in the major leagues for a month, but I was fortunate enough to strike out Johnny Bench and give up a homerun to Hank Aaron. Before I was in Major League Baseball, I played at James Madison University as a student athlete.

This was a special time, but the years following also brought difficulties. Off and on mental health issues made it challenging to find housing and remain employed. I am happy to be in a good place right now — both physically and mentally.

In November, I moved into Pathway Homes' Assisted Living Facility called Stevenson Place. Pathway Homes is a mental health nonprofit that helps people like me get housing and mental health services. Before Pathways, I was in a group home in Annandale with three other people, but I needed more help. Being at Pathways makes me feel fortunate. Staff members know everyone's personality. It's like a manager in baseball, getting to know all their players.

Stevenson Place is a wonderful community and I find comfort in how the Pathway Homes team handles situations. I really appreciate the staff and the friendships I have developed. Having a stable home enables me to spend my free time doing things I enjoy such as watching sports — especially the Commanders, which is my favorite sports team. I also like watching game shows like Wheel of Fortune and The Price is Right. Of course, spending quality time with my friends is also important. One friend visits me once a week, which helps me feel better throughout the other days.

It’s still not easy though. I struggle with mood swings, especially in the morning. Sometimes I feel like I'm on top of the world, and then other times I feel defeated. My goal is to keep creating special friendships and to improve my confidence. Overall, things are working out. I’m excited to see what the next couple of years will bring; and I know that Pathway Homes is a great partner in my life journey.

I share my story because my friends at Stevenson Place are part of a larger community of Northern Virginians who struggle. We too have dreams. We are not nameless and faceless. Thanks to Pathway Homes, we are happy to have a home and to be your neighbors.

In 2011, the Connection named Franklin number 25 of the 100 top athletes ever from Northern Virginia.