Frankford wins Public League, city championships

After sustaining an injury, Craig Lugo helped lead the Frankford baseball team team to victory at the Public League.

Craig Lugo proudly holds the Public League championship trophy after his team bested Olney Charter 8–6. PHOTO: CRAIG LUGO

It couldn’t have started any worse.

It couldn’t have ended any better.

Craig Lugo was preparing to leave for Florida with the Frankford High School baseball team in March when he felt a sharp pain in his stomach. That sharp pain kept him from heading down south.

“I went to the hospital because it was really bad and I found out my appendix burst,” the senior first baseman said. “The doctor came in and told me that I wasn’t going to Florida. I started tearing up. I didn’t just want to go to Florida, I wanted to be with my team, I wanted to play.”

Lugo is making up for lost time by making sure the Pioneers played as many postseason games as possible, and in the process he guided Frankford to yet another Public League championship.

Frankford bested Olney Charter 8–6 in the Public League championship game at Richie Ashburn Field in FDR Park last Wednesday in a rematch of last year’s championship game that saw the Trojans win the title.

Lugo connected on a three-run triple in the first inning, when Frankford jumped out to a 5–0 edge. Olney never recovered.

Lugo finished the game 1-for-2 with three RBIs, a walk and a hit by pitch, helping coach Juan Namnun win his fifth Public League championship in nine seasons.

Frankford continued its winning ways in the city championship when it knocked of Catholic League powerhouse St. Joe’s prep 9–7. It then won the first round game of the state tournament, besting Neshaminy 5–2 to advance in the tournament.

“What a great few days,” Namnun said of the week that included wins over three highly touted teams.

Frankford will now face Liberty on Thursday at Spring-Ford at 4 p.m.

“We respect Olney, we weren’t happy we beat them because it was revenge, we beat them because we wanted to have another championship for Frankford,” said Lugo, who hits fifth in the lineup. “We aren’t a team, we’re all brothers and we play to win together.”

Lugo has always been fond of his teammates.

Now in his second year as a starter, Lugo has close friends on the team, including his brother Richard, who starts in center field. But the bond he and his teammates formed when he was in Temple University Hospital made sure their friendships would last a lifetime.

While his teammates were in Florida enjoying practice in the sun, they always had their recovering teammate on their mind.

And that love was much appreciated.

“I was sad because I couldn’t play and I was missing it all,” Lugo said. “But they would FaceTime me. I talked to them every day. They made sure to let me know I was still part of the team even though I wasn’t down there.”

Lugo returned the favor once the Pioneers came home.

While he was recovering from surgery, Lugo was forced to the bench for the first three games of the regular season, but he was able to join the team and contribute with his voice.

It wasn’t easy, but it was important to show his teammates he was proud of them.

“Even though it wasn’t easy, I had to be there,” Lugo said. “They were all there for me when I was in the hospital. They kept my (spirits) up by just being around and showing me that they care so I wanted to do the same for them. I would cheer, just do whatever I could to show them I was with them.”

Once he recovered, it didn’t take long for him to show he was all the way back.

In his second game back, Lugo hit his first home run of the season. He finished the year with a team-high two homers, while hitting .519 with 13 RBI.

“He was the best first baseman in the Public League and just a great kid,” said Namnun, who has coached the Pioneers to 10 Public League crowns since 2000, including five as an assistant under Bob Peffle. “We’re very lucky, we are always blessed with talented kids, and we put a lot of emphasis on character off the field. That’s translated well on the field, and Craig is another one of those guys who are great guys on and off the field.”

That’s great news for Lugo.

A lifelong Frankford resident, Lugo grew up watching the Pioneers win championships and since he got to high school, he’s met a lot of the former players who led Frankford to titles.

“It’s so exciting to be one of those guys who did this,” Lugo said. “Frankford has so many great players and all the teams that won championships are remembered. Now we are on that list. We did it. Once you win, you’re always remembered.”

Next year, Lugo will be one of those guys who comes back to watch his former team. He’s also looking forward to his next stop, where he’ll continue to play baseball at Delaware Valley University.

“Coach Namnun was great about getting me in there,” Lugo said. “I’m going to major in sports management because I want to help people who play sports. I didn’t know that’s what I wanted to do, before I wanted to study business management, but when I was hurt, I had people help me and I want to do the same.

“I’ll work at a gym or do something in sports. I want to always be around sports, and I want to help people. That sounds like the perfect job.”

Almost as perfect as a Public League championship.

“This is the best feeling because we did it together,” Lugo said. “We’re not a team, we’re a family. We’re a family who will always be together and it’s even better because we won a championship together.”