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Julio Franco, 55, to play Independent ball

By Matt Snyder | Baseball Writer

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Julio Franco played in parts of 23 seasons in Major League Baseball, spanning the years 1982-2007 (yes, math majors, he missed a few years), through age 49. Now 55, Franco is joining an independent baseball team, at least for its first homestand.

The Fort Worth Cats of United League Baseball have made the following announcement on their website:

The Fort Worth Cats' General Manager, Craig Brasfield, proudly announced today that former major leaguer Julio Franco will join the Fort Worth Cats Baseball Club as player/coach for the first home stand of the 2014 season, which begins on Tuesday, May 20. Based upon Franco's addition, the United League has extended the Cats initial homestand through Wednesday, May 28. Franco's addition to the team will allow him to join a rare fraternity of players to play five decades of professional baseball.

The Cats play home games in LaGrave Field, which has a capacity of 4,100. They are managed by former All-Star outfielder Mike Marshall and were recently managed by former Cubs skipper Jim Essian.

Franco collected 2,586 hits in his admirable big-league career, in which he hit .298/.365/.417 (111 OPS+). The three-time All-Star and five-time Silver Slugger winner become known in his later years due to his age and pinch-hitting skills, but he was a great in-prime player, too.

Baseball fans in the Fort Worth area should be familiar with Franco, as he spent five seasons in his prime with the Rangers, even winning the 1991 batting title as a Ranger.

“I'm very excited about the opportunity to play and coach in Fort Worth and reconnect with my friends, former teammates and Texas Rangers staff members,” said Julio Franco in a statement. “I love Fort Worth and I'm very excited about the opportunity to work with the younger players and entertain the fans.”

It all starts Tuesday, May 20 at 7:05 local time against the Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings.

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