BY STEVE KRAH
Robbie Frank was a sophomore starter on Evansville (Ind.) Central High School’s IHSAA state runner-up baseball team in 1987.
The 29-win Bears lost 4-1 to LaPorte in the championship game. The Slicers went to be named mythical national champions in that season.
Frank started at shortstop for Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Paul Griese as a junior and senior at Central and played one season as a utility player at Saint Louis University for Billikens head coach Bob Hughes.
The Central Bears were ranked No. 1 during the 1988 season. Central lost to Memorial in the sectional championship in both 1988 and 1989 — 3-0 and 8-2. The Tigers lost in the first round of the semistate in 1988 and won the state crown in 1989.
Energy and passion are two things Frank saw Griese bring to the diamond.
“It was a great experience to play under him,” says Frank. “We were a very talent team 1987-89. It was a good time to be at Central.”
In the summer of 1989, Frank played American Legion baseball for Evansville Funkhouser Post 8. Henry “Mac” LaRue was the manager and son Mark LaRue the head coach.
Later on, Frank coached Highland Little League teams in Evansville, including a state runner-up squad when his players were 12 and state champion unit when they were 13. Bryce Frank, Robbie’s son, was on those teams.
Robbie Frank has served as manager for Evansville Pate American Legion Post 265, guiding a junior squad to the state championship in 2021 and leading a senior team in 2022. He plans to do the same again in 2023, scheduling 30 to 35 games against the best competition he can find.
Frank also spent the past 10 years as an Evansville Central assistant. After head coach Mike Goedde retired at the end of a 12-year run in 2022, Frank was elevated to head coach.
“He’s an old school coach,” says Frank of Goedde. “He’s big on playing the game the right way. He gives a lot of responsibility to the kids — not only in baseball but in life.”
Goedde expected his players to represent themselves, their families and their schools in an appropriate way.
“You never know who’s watching or looking out,” says Frank.
When Frank was hired as Central head coach he had one-on-one meetings with returning sophomores, juniors and seniors to discuss expectations.
He plans to have IHSAA Limited Contact Period practices — twice a week for two hours — working around basketball which is also having LCP workouts.
Among the recent Central graduates to move on to college baseball are the Class of 2022’s Aiden Esarey (Goshen College), Gavin Kelley (Grace College), Ben Kennedy (Taylor University), Ethan Lyke (Murray State University), Ethan Rothschild (University of Southern Indiana) and Kaiden Turner (Grace College), 2021’s Henry Brown (Indiana State University), Garrett Causey (University of Southern Indiana) and Mason Simon (Oakland City University), 2019’s Cory Bosecker (Butler University) and Kody Putnam (Southeastern Illinois College and transferred to Jacksonville State University), 2018’s Sean Becker (Indiana University-Kokomo and transferred to Kentucky Wesleyan College) and Mason White (Indiana University Southeast) and 2017’s Evan Kahre (University of Southern Indiana).
Evansville Central (enrollment around 1,075) is a member of the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference (with Castle, Evansville Bosse, Evansville Harrison, Evansville Mater Dei, Evansville Memorial, Evansville North, Evansville Reitz, Jasper and Vincennes Lincoln).
The Bears were part of an IHSAA Class 4A sectional grouping in 2022 with Castle, Evansville Harrison, Evansville North, Evansville Reitz and Jasper.
“It’s a dogfight every year,” says Frank.
Central has won nine sectional titles — the last in 2017.
The process of hiring Frank’s assistant coaches is in progress.
The Bears play home games at Paul Griese Field. Goedde had Bermuda grass added to the infield a few years ago.
Each spring, Cub Baseball in Evansville has eighth graders (and some seventh graders) competing on behalf of the high schools they are feeding.
Robbie Frank, who is president of Frank Insurance Services Inc. (owned by father Gene Frank), has three children — Faith, Ellie and Bryce. Faith Frank (20) is a former Evansville Central basketball and track athlete now studying at Ivy Tech in Evansville. Ellie Frank (19) was a two-time first-team all-state lacrosse player for the Bears and is now a Murray (Ky.) State University freshman. Bryce Frank (17) is a junior baseball player at Evansville Central.