“He’s probably the most competitive kid I’ve ever coached. He was the kind of kid if you told him in a big game that we’d have to cut his left arm off and they’d guarantee us a win, he would say, ‘Here’s my left arm.’ ”
Lakins, who will turn 25 on June 29, advanced through the Red Sox system after playing two years at Ohio State University and signing with Boston for $320,000 as a sixth-round draft pick in 2015.
The right-hander has flourished since moving to the bullpen about a year ago, having endured season-ending elbow injuries in 2016 and 2017.
“Travis is a tough kid. When it comes to that part of it, he was made to be out there on that mound,” said Matt Kinser, who coached Lakins during his first three baseball seasons at Franklin. “Hopefully this is just the beginning. With his mind-set and ability, I think he’s going to get in there and really turn some heads. Give a kid like that an opportunity, he may knock it out of the park.”
Lakins led the Wildcats to their last Southwestern Buckeye League Southwestern Division title as a junior in 2012. Jake Long was Franklin’s head coach for his senior year.
“Good for him. It’s pretty cool,” Long said. “If you’d have asked me when I was coaching him if I thought he could make it … yeah, absolutely. He was probably the one kid that I ever coached that had a shot if he stayed healthy and stayed with it. I’m proud of him.
“People don’t understand how hard it is to make it to the big leagues and the mental part of baseball. He always had the tools, but you’ve got to get some breaks and stay healthy. You’re riding on buses for hours in the minor leagues. You’ve just got to grind it out.”
Franklin pitcher Travis Lakins delivers to the plate during a Southwestern Buckeye League baseball game April 15, 2013, at Oakwood. COX MEDIA FILE PHOTO
Franklin made it to the Division II regional twice during Lakins’ four-year varsity career. He played shortstop when he wasn’t pitching.
“He was my leadoff hitter,” Long said. “Now he’ll tell you he was a great hitter … I can tell you he was a really good shortstop. He was a good athlete with great hands.”
Long said Lakins’ toughness as a pitcher was on display during Franklin’s run to the regional semifinals in 2013.
Lakins went the distance in a 2-1 district semifinal win over Carroll at Miamisburg. The next day, he slammed the door in a 4-1 district championship victory over Clermont Northeastern at Mason.
“He had thrown 80, 90 pitches the day before,” Long recalled. “The next morning, it’s a close game in the district finals. After the sixth, I said, ‘Hey man, you got nine or 10 fastballs in you?’ He said, ‘I feel great.’
“He struck the first two guys out and had a kid 0-2 with probably the eight hardest fastballs I’d seen him throw all year, then he threw the nastiest breaking ball you could believe to strike the last guy out. That was him. He wanted to win. That’s kind of how he’s geared.”
Long said Lakins elevated his game by playing summer ball with the Midland organization.
“It wasn’t just that he dominated the SWBL,” Long said. “He got exposed to that high-level stuff in the summers.”
Kinser was Franklin’s head coach for 11 seasons, so he watched Lakins develop through the years before he got to high school.
“We knew we had a good player coming for sure,” Kinser said. “What stood out about Travis was really just his hard work. In high school he started his offseason throwing programs, and man did his velocity really spike between his freshman and sophomore years and even further between his sophomore and junior years.”
Kinser plays pickup basketball with Lakins in the winter. Ironically, Lakins was probably more well-known for his basketball skills during his time as a Wildcat.
He was a 3-point marksman and played with Luke Kennard for two seasons. Kennard is now a pro athlete himself with the NBA’s Detroit Pistons.
“To have guys playing in the NBA and MLB, it’s crazy,” Bales said. “There’s certain guys that have the ‘it’ factor, and Travis has it. Luke has it too. To think that one night I’d be watching one of my former players in an NBA playoff game and then the next night see another guy from my team get called to Fenway Park, it was just surreal.”