As we are here thinking of the life of our son who has passed, we realize how much we really miss him. We are however thankful that Kyle was a Christian who often talked of his recognition of God and he is now in heaven looking over us.
Kyle entered this world as a fighter and over-achiever from day one.
When Kyle was born on September 24, 1987 in Mesa, Arizona, he was a premature baby that immediately after birth had to be rushed by Helicopter to a specialty prenatal care unit at another hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. After many days of intensive care and constant praying on our part, Kyle was permitted to go home with us.
Kyle was a special child that was “all boy” growing up. Always into dirt, mud, fast toys, and all of the traditional American sports. Kyle was diagnosed with ADHD and also had a reading disability so school never really came easy to him, in fact later in his years it became very difficult for him.
Kyle had a passion for baseball. With baseball, Kyle could play a sport he loved, but more than that, he developed a love for helping others see the game the way he did which was a respect for the game, to be technically correct in his approach and to play the game from an old school perspective.
Without question, Kyle’s favorite television show was ESPN Sports Center. It was not uncommon for Kyle to watch it all hours of the day and night memorizing stat after stat for players, coaches and teams and then challenging me to a game of “Who would you start a franchise with and why”. He knew I didn’t have the statistics expertise that he had and would take joy in proving it to me.
He would often bait me into a discussion of who is more valuable to their team a roleplaying motivational player with average statistics or a Superstar player everyone wanted to be like. He was convinced a motivated player with an average skill set could affect his team as positively as a Superstar.
Over his life, time after time, Kyle would live this scenario by showing the others on his team that he had charisma, and talent as well. Kyle thrived on someone telling him he was not capable of doing something.
I remember several of these stories, which reflect this very well.
As a ten year old Kyle was diagnosed with femoral anteversion, which is an inward twisting of the thighbone, which also twisted his foot inward as well. Kyle continued to play sports year round, making all-star teams in CDO Little League, playing on AAU travel club teams and participating just as though nothing was wrong and even though the pain from his inward bent foot would often translate to knee and hip pain.
It would be a good four years before Kyle fully grew out of this problem, never complaining publicly and never using it as an excuse of why he wasn’t better.
In 1999 as a twelve year old, Kyle was playing baseball in Tucson for CDO Little League in Tucson, AZ. I was his Coach and had been his Coach since he was ten years of age. Kyle and I would go to the games together and also ride home together most of the time. I would have a tradition of filling out the lineup card before I left for the game and I remember most of the time our conversations to and from the game being about my strategy of the game, Kyle demanding to review the lineup card and then challenging me if he saw what would be in his opinion a mistake on my part and occasionally he would remark “I like that lineup.”
Kyle used to have the philosophy to not let the great players beat you and that our teams problems were not talent related, but a problem related to a lack of desire to win. In Kyle’s words, “our team doesn’t have any heart”.
We had lost the first eight games that year and went on to win our last eight games, and go undefeated in the postseason league tournament, and winning the overall league championship. Kyle was the starting shortstop on that team and I attribute part of that teams success to Kyle’s vision and leadership as well as that of Kyle Wuestenfeld who is playing college baseball now at New Mexico State.
Kyle was selected to the CDO All Star team that year. The team went on to win the Tucson Regional Championship, the Arizona State Championship, and eventually finished third place in the Little League Western Regional in San Bernardino, California.
Kyle was a reserve on that team, playing every role that was asked of him. While his on field playing time was minimal, he was a fixture as the first base coach, barking out accolades to his teammates while stealing signs of the opposing coaches and catchers. How fitting that Kyle’s main role on that championship team was in a Coaches Box, for that’s exactly what he was. A Coach and Teacher.
As a thirteen and fourteen year old Kyle played in the invitation/select Tucson Pony League continuing to grow and learn the game. Kyle was easily one of the smallest in the league as well as one of the most competitive. Kyle started at starting at second base for two consecutive years.
As a fifteen year old Kyle’s problems in school were starting to show. His baseball skills still improving and was the starting shortstop on the Freshman High School team at Ironwood Ridge High School in OroValley playing the almost the whole year until he suffered a season ending arm injury. Emotionally it devastated Kyle not to be able to play anymore.
The arm injury lasted for over a year and would not allow Kyle to workout with any throwing drills and also making Kyle miss his entire sophomore year of baseball at Ironwood Ridge High School. He did play in the summer leagues and winter tournaments going into his junior year playing mostly center field and as occasional pinch runner. His femoral antiversion had almost fully disappeared and in fact he became one of the fastest players on his team.
His junior year of High School Kyle was determined to make a comeback and make the Baseball team. The Coaching staff had changed and Kyle was in the position of having to prove himself from scratch, which is not easy for a 120-pound High School Baseball player. But Kyle wasn’t a normal player; he knew as much about the game technically and fundamentally than the Coaching staff (and some would say more). All of the players had the utmost respect for Kyle and treated him like a brother and several of the players would come to Kyle for hitting instruction and technical advise rather than the coaching staff. He loved that; teaching and coaching high school baseball was what he always wanted to do for a career path.
After two days of tryouts, Kyle was told he would have to start the year on the Jr. Varsity team. Kyle had a great two days of tryouts, but it was apparent that the Coaching staff had already picked their team even before the tryouts began. If you knew Kyle you would know that was unacceptable to him. His feelings and pride were hurt! He came home very upset that night vowing to change things. When the Head Coach told Kyle he would be starting the year on the Jr. Varsity team, Kyle politely told him, “don’t get used to it, I won’t be down there to long!” and that is exactly what happened.
The next day at baseball practice, the Varsity was scrimmaging the Jr. Varsity with Kyle playing in center field for the Jr. Varsity. That game, Kyle threw out two runners at third base and one at home, while collecting two hits. That day the Jr. Varsity team beat the Varsity squad.
After the game the Head Coach pulled Kyle aside and informed Kyle that the next day he should report to the varsity practice. Kyle spent the entirety of that year playing Center Field for the Varsity team, 1st pinch runner off the bench, while starting in half the games. Kyle’s grades had started to suffer more and more and we had noticed that Kyle became more distant from us over the summer of 2006 going into his senior year. By this point Kyle had trouble attending school, even though his teachers would try to motivate him. It was apparent that although Kyle remained close friends with all of the IRHS and CDO athletes, he was spending way too much time with the wrong influential crowds.
Later that summer, Kyle approached his mother and I and reluctantly informed us he believed he had a substance abuse problem and asked for help. We immediately embraced Kyle and enrolled him in a rehabilitation program. Over months Kyle was doing better and better. One day in December, Kyle relapsed. On December 06, 2006 Kyle passed way from a drug overdose unable to break away from his dependency on drugs.
Our prayer is for all parents and families that naively assume their child cannot get involved in such things because he or she is an athlete, or choose to ignore the possibility, would take the steps to find out for sure. In our case yes, we were paying attention and it still did not prevent his death.
We all miss Kyle and I will always cherish the memories. Kyle was my best friend, our wonderful son, and a beloved brother to his sister Ashley. Kyle was a person who loved God and his family more than himself, and a friend that took care of everyone else but himself. But in the end, that personal neglect would not allow him to overcome his substance abuse.
Kyle had a million dollar smile, fantastic sense of humor and the largest loving heart in the world. At the memorial service there were over one thousand people who came to give their respects. It was truly a wonderful show of support from our friends and community and again reminded us how many people Kyle’s life had touched.
Also at the memorial service, Kyle’s uncle, Larry Franks, a minister from Alabama, gave a spiritual message. After the message was received there were twenty or so people who gave their hearts and lives to God. Go figure, wasn’t that just like Kyle, always thinking of someone else!
Our organization -The Kyle Franks Foundation Inc. is established to provide education, scholarships, and help for the needy. We hope you can participate and contribute to the cause on a regular basis.
Kyle’s favorite Bible verse was Philippians 4:13 - "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
Now more than ever we will need his strength.
- Gary, Diane, and Ashley Franks