Frankford bested Central 5–4.
When work was over, that’s when the real work began.
Rico Lugo worked at Juniata Boys and Girls Club this winter, where he had a collection of duties that included keeping score for basketball leagues that called the playground home. He’d usually wrap up his duties around 8 p.m., but he wouldn’t head right home.
He was putting in overtime.
“I would hit off the tee just about every night,” the Frankford High School baseball junior said. “I really wanted to work on my swing. The more I hit, the better I felt. I really got a lot better by doing that.
“When the season started, I felt really good. I needed to fix my hands, but (Frankford coach Juan Namnun) fixed that right away. Once I did that, I was ready.”
That’s an understatement.
This year, he was the top hitter in the area. He finished the regular season batting just under .600 and he has stayed just as hot in the playoffs.
On Wednesday, Lugo scored the winning run in the Public League championship game as his Pioneers won their second straight Public League crown. This time, Frankford bested Central 5–4 in the championship game played at FDR Park in South Philadelphia.
Lugo reached on an error and then scored when Luis Ramos smacked a double to score him from second in the sixth inning. Lugo also scored a run on a wild pitch.
“It felt so good to win this one, last year was great, too, but this year feels even better,” the Juniata resident said. “Last year, we scored five runs in the first inning, but today we had it a lot harder. We knew it was going to be hard because Central is good.
“When we won today, I don’t know what it was, but after we won, I felt a strong family bond. I love the guys on this team. I love winning with them. It means a lot because we all did it together.”
Lugo has helped the Pioneers a lot with his bat this year, but he also came through in other ways.
A natural centerfielder, Frankford was blessed with having great depth in the outfield, but needed a little help in the infield. He approached Namnun about trying his hand at third base, and the skipper liked what he saw.
“Third base is hard because the ball comes fast, but coach said I was doing a good job with my fielding and I had a strong arm, so after I tried it for the first time (this year), he told me I was going to be the third baseman for a game,” said Lugo, who started at center field last year. “I did some pitching this year, too. I like playing outfield the best, but we needed a third baseman.
“I told coach that I would play wherever he needed me. I told him I wanted to do whatever we needed most, and that was third base. I think the more I played, the better I got.”
Like he does at the plate and in the field, Lugo likes to make things happen when he gets on base.
Whenever he gets on, Lugo does whatever he can to get home. He credits his teammates with their help, but he also relies heavily on his wheels.
“I’m a leadoff guy, so I always try to be aggressive once I get on,” Lugo said. “Coach lets me be aggressive, and it helps to have teammates who always move me. The biggest thing about our team is we’re a team. We always want to help the next guy. Nobody cares about themselves, we all care about winning.”
Lugo learned that trait at Frankford.
He also learned it from his former teammates and brother, Craig, who graduated last year from Frankford.
His brother played at Delaware Valley University this year, but whenever Lugo needed a boost, he would reach out to his brother.
“My brother is my biggest role model, other than my dad, I’d have to say he’s my biggest influence,” Lugo said. “He came to every playoff game we had and he was cheering. Everyone loved having him there, but it meant a lot to me that he was there.”
The Lugo bond epitomizes the bond the Frankford players have.
And while he still has another year left at the school, he’s happy he and his teammates have twice experienced the thrill of bringing home a Public League championship, the school’s 10th title since 2000 and the sixth one for Namnun since he began coaching in 2011.
“I’m very lucky to have my teammates, my family and my coaches, both Coach Namnun and Coach (Joe) Farina,” Lugo said. “We all play the game for each other. Winning is fun, but winning with your family is even more fun, and this team is a family.”