By STEVE KRAH
Mike Frame has experienced plenty on the baseball field.
In his 33rd season as head coach at Huntington University, he has seen plenty of hits, runs, errors, walks and strikeouts.
When he started with the Foresters, Frame was not much older than the players he was leading.
“I was so young,” says Frame. “I was concerned I wasn’t going to be respected.
“I was a taskmaster. I felt like I had to control everything.”
As time passed, Frame’s coaching approach transformed.
“Things have changed a lot since I first started,” says Frame. “The biggest change is probably just me. I try to understand coaching better.”
Along the way, he found his own style and what he came to appreciate more than anything are the relationships.
“You coach baseball differently than you coach other sports,” says Frame. “There’s a different rhythm to it. Maybe that’s just me? Part of being successful in coaching is you have to based on your style. Don’t try to be somebody you’re not.”
Frame, a member of the Huntington University Athletic Hall of Fame and Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Halls of Fame, does not scream and yell or play mind games. He speaks in truth and love (Ephesians 4:15).
“You have to establish trust and trust is more than what they do on the baseball field,” says Frame. “It’s about their development as a young man. If you develop trust, there’s no reason to be screaming and yelling or playing mind games.
“Coach and player are in it for the same thing, their development — on the field and off.”
Frame also trusts his coaching staff of Thad Frame (Mikes’s son), Mark Flueckiger, Brian Abbott, Nate Perry, Scott Craft (strength and conditioning) and Dan Wilcher (student assistant). It’s a group that includes four men who played with or for him.
“They’re not just assistant coaches, they’re friends and family,” says Frame. “I don’t try to micro-manage their time or what they teach. Sometimes I’m leading, but most of the time (in practice) they are in charge.”
What about the future?
“You want to leave the program better than you found it,” says Frame. “I’m 56 and have coached for 33 years. I know I’m not going coach 33 more years. I had major heart surgery in November, I’m very healthy and doing fine. Who do you turn this over to?”
Frame entered the 2017 season with a 770-653 record with 13 conference or conference tournament titles. The Foresters have won three of the last nine Crossroads League tournament championships.
“I’m the winningest coach in Huntington University history,” says Frame, a five-time conference coach of the year and former NAIA district and area and National Christian College Athletic Association district coach of the year. “I’m the losingest coach in Huntington University history.”
Frame describes himself as very competitive, but he tries to keep things in perspective.
“I hate to lose,” says Frame. “I want to be able to challenge (players) in the baseball program, But, 15 years from now when they are a husband or father, I want to help them if I can.”
Not a year goes by when Frame doesn’t get correspondence from a former player telling how the lessons he was trying to impart did not hit home until they were out experiencing life after college.
“‘Now I understand some of the things you were trying to do and the spiritual influence,’” says Frame in relating a recent note he received.
Frame also takes satisfaction in the reputation that’s been built over the years.
“We’re known as a program that does things the right way,” says Frame. “There’s a respect level from the people we play.”
The ’17 HU roster includes 21 players from Indiana high schools. But the Foresters are also looking elsewhere for talent.
“We are expanding our recruiting a little bit into junior colleges,” says Frame. “Our starting third baseman (Andrew Nativdad) played at a JuCo in California. We certainly want to be able to recruit in our backyard, but we have signed a kid from Texas and gotten verbals from California and Iowa.
“(In recruiting), we have to find someone who is comfortable to be at a Christian university and be successful at a very good academic school.
“That weeds some kids out.”
Since the late 1950’s, the Foresters have played home games in a wooded ravine. Forest Glen Park, located on the northeast side of campus, is lighted with a capacity of 900, a press box and double bullpens.
“It’s quality place to play,” says Frame. “It’s kind of my garden. I enjoy just developing that facility.”
This season, the Crossroads League has opted to play a balanced conference schedule. There will be many three-game series (usually a single 9-inning game and doubleheader with 9- and 7-inning games).
“I’m looking forward to that,” says Frame. “The game is different 9 innings vs. 7 and we will have to adjust with our pitching. We are the only NAIA sport that plays more in the postseason (all 9-inning games) than regular season.
“In a perfect world, we’d play five 9-inning games a week.”
Mike Frame is in his 33rd season as head baseball coach at Huntington University.