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 at Safeco
Four incredible years of playing college baseball at Miami University for incredible coaches, and with unbelievable teammates, started me on this path.
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 never set out to be a professional baseball coach, but when the Mariners reached out and offered me a job (fall of 2016), it was a no brainer.
Being a Mental Skills Coach for the Seattle Mariners is an absolute dream job…
And hopefully illustrates the value of constantly looking for opportunities to learn from others.
Next Level Ballplayer is your opportunity to learn from some of the best like I did.
Go get it!
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 a picture of me Participating in the College HR Derby.
Social Media/ Grinder
Four awesome years of development and learning how to win with the Ontario Blue Jays and Team Canada landed me four life changing years at Missouri State University.
I was fortunate to be around some of the top players and coaches in the college game and also play in some very intense environments including the 2015 NCAA Super Regional.
As I continue my baseball career after being drafted by the St Louis Cardinals Organization I realized how lucky I am to be around some great baseball minds and baseball people. Being around all these tremendous baseball coaches and players is exactly what Next Level Ballplayer offers you.
I am all about finding great opportunities and never letting them go to waste. NLB is the perfect opportunity to learn from the best baseball minds around the world today. Take advantage and enjoy the ride!
I started helping NLB after my best friend and now coworker, Gary Russo, offered me the chance to participate in the Staturday blog. I apologize in advance for my grammar.
I’m a die hard Cubs fan in enemy territory (St. Louis) and I’m still rubbing in the 2016 World Series to anybody and everybody who will listen. Top baseball moments (aside from peaking in Sixth Grade):
1. Witnessing the Cubs clinch for the first time ever at Wrigley against the Cardinals (Gary: did you watch that?)
AND 2. Buying a good luck charm puppy before Game 6 of the 2016 NLCS and naming it Wrigley.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, I am the only player in the history of slow-pitch softball to strike out twice in one game.
Chris Chinea (teammate to Joey Hawkins in the St. Louis Cardinals system) eats, sleeps, and dreams about baseball.
He had an extremely successful college career for LSU where he was named a third-team All-American and Second-Team All SEC in his final season.
He has played two years in professional baseball and has yet to hit below .300 at any level. It’s safe to say Chris loves to hit!
Chris spends his offseason in Florida and has no idea what it’s like for it to be “too cold” to play baseball.
He is very active in his hometown during the offseason working youth camps and providing private instruction to kids all ages.
Tate Matheny was selected in the 4th round of the 2015 MLB Draft by the Boston Red Sox after a successful college career where at Missouri State where he earned multiple team MVP’s and got to represent his home country playing for Team USA during the summer of 2014.
In the offseason, Tate provides hitting lessons to youth players in St. Louis and enjoys spending time with his family and hunting.
Tate is one of the best hitters to come out of the St. Louis area (his high school numbers look like video game stats) and loves going oppo taco whenever he can.
He has never been afraid to use the whole field! Tate has had the pleasure of growing up in big league clubhouses his entire life: his father is former gold-glove catcher and current St. Louis Cardinals manager 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!).