About Next Level Ballplayer
NLB is A place where serious ballplayers, parents and coaches can learn from the best baseball minds in the world
Hey Franco, Why Did You Start Next Level Ballplayer?
When my college baseball career ended and no MLB teams called and asked for my services, I knew my playing days were over.
Though my dream had always been to play in the Big Leagues, I eventually came to grips with that fact that I needed to “move on”, but “moving on” without baseball seemed inconceivable…
When I was ballplayer growing up, if I could have had anything, I would have wanted instruction and advice from Big League players and top college coaches.
During my college career at Miami University, I had the opportunity to play with over 20 ballplayers who were eventually drafted (3 went on to play in the Big Leagues) and be coached by some of the best.
Between those connections and the other friendships I developed in college and professional baseball, I was in a place to make NLB a reality…
Everything you’ll find here is geared to help serious ballplayers, parents and coaches get better.
Our NLB Community
Ballplayers Reached Since Launch
Meet the NLB team.
Franco on Wrigley Field after a Cubs game.
My approach to the game of baseball is much more than my personal baseball experience.
Over the years, I’ve been blessed to learn from some of the top baseball players and coaches in the game…
…and have worked with and interviewed numerous top MLB players and successful coaches at every level.
I have wrapped all of my knowledge and network of respected baseball minds into making NLB the go to baseball resource, with tons of free/quality content AND trusted products.
I’ve been known to road trip at a moment’s notice… usually to see a baseball game.
Gary “g” Russo
Manager/Head of Sales & Partnerships
I came to NLB after recently wrapping up my college baseball career at Miami University (OH).
I recently participated in the 2016 College Home Run Derby after finishing top 5 in career homeruns at Miami University after only 3 seasons.
I love dissecting the biomechanics of elite hitter’s swings and I am constantly preaching about the kinetic chain.
I’m a die-hard Cardinals fan and love reminding Franco about the heartache my Cards have caused his Dodgers in recent years.
Beware of putting on the bunt sign around me, you will get called out.
That’s me (on the left) and Franco hanging with Red Sox’ Coach Fenster after an NLB interview.
Firstbase Coach/Head of Customer Service
I’ve been a part of NLB for the last two years and shared numerous hotel rooms with Franco.
I’m a die hard Red Sox fan… and yes I have a Boston accent (no bandwagon fan here!)
I recently was given the opportunity to become the Head HS Coach at my alma-mater in the Atlanta area where I now spend most of my time reminding my players how good I was when I led our high school team to its last state championship. #GloryDays
Matty “Ice” Hojsik
Advanced Scount/Tech Master
Once Franco found out that I did a couple of DJ gigs in college as DJ Matty Ice, he hasn’t called me by my regular name since…
I’m not sure why my DJ career didn’t take off, but now I have a much cooler job by providing the tech support for NLB.
I grew up in New York during the Yankees’ glory days, and long for them to get back to being a staple in the World Series.
There’s two types of people in the world: those that love Jeter and those that lie about it.
That’s me in my super sick Yankees snap back.
That’s me (on the left) with Franco on US Cellular Field during a White Sox game.
Matty “Ballgame” Price
Bench Coach/Partnership Rep
I got the nickname Matty Ballgame from Dan Harren while we were playing together my freshman year at Pepperdine University…
And when Danny Harren gives you a nickname, you keep it!
I eat, drink, breathe, and sleep baseball- it’s in my blood. I met Franco while throwing BP to a handful of MLB players in the off-season and once I found out about NLB, I knew I wanted to be a part of it.
Whether coaching HS baseball players, doing lessons, road tripping to MLB games with Franco or dominating in my softball league, I love being around the game and helping other players achieve their dream of playing at the next level.
Joey Hawkins attended Sinclair Secondary School in Whitby, Ontario. Throughout his High School career he played for the well-known Ontario Blue Jays Travel Ball Club and also represented Canada on the National Stage, playing for the 18U Junior National Team. Hawkins went on to play collegiately at Missouri State University, a D1 institution in the Missouri Valley Conference.
Hawkins helped the 2012 Bears reach the NCAA field of 64, and played in the Miami (FL) Regional. Hawkins went on to be a 3-year starter for the Missouri State Bears and two year captain. 2015 was their most successful season, where Hawkins helped the Bears earn a regular season and tournament conference title, the 8th overall National Seed in the NCAA tournament, a regional host, and a NCAA Super Regional appearance.
Hawkins took home multiple records and personal accolades upon finishing his career at MSU. He finished as the 2015 NCAA leader, the all-time conference leader, and all-time school leader in sacrifice bunts and also started 157 consecutive games on the Bears infield. Hawkins finished the year as the Defensive Player of the Year in the Missouri Valley Conference and Second Team All-Conference.
Hawkins was selected by the Kansas City Royals in the 42nd Round of the 2011 MLB Draft and the St. Louis Cardinals in the 40th Round of the 2015 MLB Draft. Hawkins has two professional seasons under his belt reaching as far as Double-A in the Texas League. Hawkins spends his off seasons in both Ontario and Missouri giving back to youth baseball.
Chris Chinea lettered three seasons at LSU from 2013 through 2015 and emerged as one of the top players in the SEC in his final season where he earned third-team All-America and second-team All-SEC recognition. Chris played in 139 career games (101 starts), batting .317 (120-for-379) with 26 doubles, 13 homers, 82 RBI and 56 runs. He was selected in the 17th round of the 2015 MLB Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals and signed with the Cardinals in the summer of ‘15.
During the summer of his sophomore year, he was a 2014 Cape Cod League All-Star; where he hit .310 (27-for-87) with four doubles and 18 RBI for the Wareham Gatemen.
In 2015, he was LSU’s starting first baseman, batting .344 (88-for-256) in 66 starts with 17 doubles, 11 homers, 58 RBI and 42 runs. He batted .372 (45-for-121) in SEC games with nine doubles, eight homers, 28 RBI and 21 runs. He would complete the season No. 4 in the SEC in hits (88), fifth in RBI (58), eighth in total bases (138), 10th in batting average (.344), 10th in home runs (11), 11th in slugging percentage (.539) and 11th in doubles (17).
After being drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in 2015, the Cardinals assigned him to the Advanced Rookie Level Johnson City Cardinals he went on and hit with an average of .313, 6 Homeruns, 11 doubles and 27 RBI’s. The St. Louis Cardinals named him an organizational All-Star at the end of the year.
In his second professional season, the Cardinals assigned him to the low-A Peoria Chiefs out of spring training. Chris went on and hit with an average of .312, 6 HR, 24 2B’s and 63 RBI’s. In the offseason, Chris resides in his hometown of Miami, Florida. He is very active with youth baseball in the area giving private instruction and working youth camps in the area.
Tate Matheny lettered three years at Missouri State before being selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 4th round (111th overall) of the 2015 MLB Draft. Prior to his career at Missouri State, Tate won two consecutive
state championships with baseball powerhouse Westminster Christian Academy in St. Louis, MO. In his
final high school season with Westminster Christian
Academy, Tate had a whopping .610 BA, 11 HR, 50 RBI,
and 60R on his way to being selected in the 23rdround
of the 2012 MLB Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals.
His college career was nothing short of spectacular, earning Freshmen Player of the Year honors while also winning the team’s Most Valuable Player Award. He only got better his second season, posting career highs in HR, RBI, SLG, OBP, and OPS on his way to receiving a second consecutive team MVP award. After wrapping up his second collegiate season, Tate was selected to play for the highly touted USA National Team- a group of the top college players around the country. His final year at Missouri State, Tate led the Bears to a number 8 national seed and fell a game shy of sending them to the College World Series with a loss to Arkansas in game 3 of the 2015 NCAA Super Regional.
His past season in the Boston organization, Tate was a South Atlantic League All-Star for the Greenville Drive, a single-A affiliate of the Red Sox. During the offseason, Tate provides hitting lessons to youth baseball players in the St. Louis area. Tate is a friend and former teammate of NLB Brand Ambassador Joey Hawkins and is the son of former Major League catcher and current manager of the St. Louis Cardinals Mike Matheny.
Hey Franco, How Do You Get All These Interviews?
The answer – God blessed me with a lot of great baseball contacts who have been generous in helping me get started.
Since then we have just rode the momentum and positive feedback from both our viewers and the interviewees.
We recently had a D1 coach say that he has certain NLB articles printed out and highlighted for his players…
And just this past year we had multiple college coaches reach out to us to do an interview.
It’s been a really cool and humbling experience watching NLB grow and develop.
I’ve almost quit a few times for a variety of reasons, but with our new team in place I’m excited to take NLB to the “next level” (excuse my poor pun!).