NEW YORK -- When he was a wide-eyed boy dreaming of becoming a Major League Baseball player, John Franco lived in the Marlboro Houses projects, Building 5, Apt. 7D -- a short walk to the wonders of the Coney Island boardwalk."Me and my buddies used to go to the beach
NEW YORK -- When he was a wide-eyed boy dreaming of becoming a Major League Baseball player, John Franco lived in the Marlboro Houses projects, Building 5, Apt. 7D -- a short walk to the wonders of the Coney Island boardwalk.
"Me and my buddies used to go to the beach all the time, hang out on the beach, on the way home stop at Nathan's, get a couple of hot dogs and then ride the rides in Coney Island," the Mets legend said on Tuesday. "It's very dear to me -- it reminds me of my childhood."
There was no better person to promote the big announcement of a partnership that makes Nathan's Famous the first Official Hot Dog of MLB and a proud supporter of MLB's Play Ball initiative. At the club level, Nathan's will continue to be the Official Hot Dog of the Cardinals, Marlins, Mets and Yankees, and the Official Beef Frank of the Reds.
"There's no other way to watch a baseball game," Franco said during a drive around lower Manhattan for several media appearances. "When you go to the ballpark, you don't go for a hamburger or sushi -- you go for a hot dog and a soda or beer and watch the game. There's no better way to watch the game than with a Nathan's hot dog."
Commissioner Rob Manfred also attended a morning event during which Franco and kids participated in Play Ball activities while Nathan's own Coney Island-themed mobile unit was set up to hand out the same kind of fare that is consumed at ballparks about 25 million times per season.
"We're really excited about our partnership with Nathan's," Manfred said. "Hot dogs and baseball go together, natural fit, great company, and we're really excited to have the first-ever Official Hot Dog of Major League Baseball.
"The Play Ball initiative is one that's near and dear to my heart, because I believe it's crucial to the future of our game, and Nathan's desire to be on board and involved with Play Ball is a real positive for us."
Franco said hot dogs were a key element of his own youth baseball experience.
"Hot dogs were a big part, because in Little League, when we used to win, the coaches would buy hot dogs," he said. "So we would go to Nathan's and get hot dogs after the game. If we won, we got two hot dogs; if we lost, we got one. Still, it was great.
"I think it's very important that MLB and Nathan's getting together to promote the game of baseball for the youth. To get kids out there and start playing baseball, softball, Wiffle ball, stickball … whatever. It's not about nine on nine on the baseball field -- it's about getting them out there. We've got to get kids more involved and playing sports. Obviously we want them to get involved in baseball as much as they can. It's a fun sport, it's a great way to learn team spirit, sportsmanship and be part of a team."
Scott Harvey, executive vice president of Nathan's Famous, called it "a historic day" for his company, adding that "the hot dog is just as essential to America as apple pie."
"To be the Official Hot Dog of MLB, it's a huge day, bringing in two iconic companies together -- Major League Baseball and Nathan's Hot Dogs. It's been around 100 years, so it's phenomenal to get those two together. It's a long time in the making and we're so excited that we can officially call ourselves the Official Hot Dog of Major League Baseball."
"There is something special, wholesome and uniquely American about spending a summer day at the ballpark, watching a baseball game and enjoying a hot dog," said Noah Garden, MLB EVP of business. "As a top brand in premium beef hot dogs, Nathan's is a perfect partner for MLB and we're excited to have their support in growing the future of the game through our Play Ball program."
With Opening Day now just days away, the all-time saves leaders among left-handers was also asked about his expectations for the Mets.
"Hopefully they win the division -- that's number one," Franco said. "Number two is their health; guys got to stay healthy through the course of the season. And number three is, the more they win, the more Nathan's hot dogs we can eat at the stadium."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com and a baseball writer since 1990. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog.