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Star shortstops have plenty in common

They are arguably the city’s two best shortstops, wizards with the glove and difference-makers at the plate.

One is possibly slated to be taken in the top five rounds of June’s MLB Draft and is the face of George Washington, one of the area’s premier programs. He is a wiry-strong, 6-foot-3, power-hitting senior from Washington Heights with powerful wrists and a quick bat.

The other stands just 5-foot-10, is headed for Brown of the Ivy League, hails from Staten Island, and produces runs with his legs rather than his bat. His father is John Franco, the former New York Mets closer, yet he has established his own niche at the Bay Ridge school.

For all their differences, there are also plenty of similarities between GW’s Mike Antonio and J.J. Franco of Poly Prep, which topped the Trojans, 2-1, in non-league action on May 6 in Bay Ridge.

For one, they are both winners.

Before his May 5 loss to Fieldston, Franco had won 56 straight Ivy League contests, three division crowns, two NYSAISAA titles and was the New York State Sportswriters Association 2009 Class B Player of the Year. Antonio, by contrast, who is ranked 45th among high school prospects by Baseball America, won a PSAL Class A championship as a sophomore and has won a pair of Manhattan A East titles.

The two became fast friends over the summer when they competed in the prestigious Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif., rooming together, along with Trojans second baseman Xyruse Martinez.

They are both humble and talented, leaders on the field and off it. When asked the better player, each cited the other, Antonio saying there are things in Franco’s game he would like to replicate.

“That’s the type of kid Mike is,” Franco said. “He’s a humble person. You would expect someone as good as he is to be sort of cocky.”

The two played to a draw last Thursday. Franco had a hit while Antonio flied out three times against Richie Carbone, his teammate over the summer with the New York Nine. Franco was far busier in the field, handling seven of his eight chances cleanly. He also turned a sterling double play in the top of the sixth, catching centerfielder Fernelys Sanchez off second on Martinez’s pop up.

“The thing about J.J. is he plays with so much passion, and me too,” Antonio said. “We just love the game.”

Antonio wasn’t nearly as busy in the field, although he nearly robbed Franco of his only hit with a diving stab of a two-hopper in the hole.

“When I hit the ball to him, I was like, ‘C’mon Mike, I know you want to win, but be my boy,’” Franco joked.

When it comes to the two, Carbone is a good reference. He has played for several seasons with both of them. While their skill set is very different – Franco is faster and a table-setter while Antonio is a bulkier middle-of-the-order guy – they are similar in their desire to win. If Carbone was starting a team tomorrow or trapped in a fox hole, he would like both of them by his side.

“They both have a lot of heart and that takes them far,” he said. “They will probably go on to minor league careers, hopefully the major leagues.”

Franco said he planned to call Antonio and talk about the game. There, of course, would be no bragging or needling over the win. He will compliment Antonio on his performance and the GW star will do the same.

Two peas in a pod, the two all-city caliber shortstops.

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