Athletics & Recreation
Baseball is a game of numbers, familiar to all fans of the game. There are the dimensions of the field — 90 feet between the bases, 60 feet, 6 inches from the pitcher’s mound to home plate. Then there are the many numbers that go along with measuring success in the game, including the records for home runs and batting average for hitters, and strikeouts and wins for pitchers.
Mike Frame knows all about the game’s facts and figures. In more than 40 years of playing and coaching at Huntington University, Frame accumulated impressive numbers himself. But even as a baseball purist, Frame’s time around the diamond has left him believing that the numbers occupy only a small part of his baseball life.
He can recall games, plays, and some of the statistics of the hundreds of players who have passed through his highly-successful program, but as satisfying each game-winning hit has been, he gets more joy with every note received, every wedding attended or birth announced from a former player. The most pride he feels as a coach is watching each of them come to HU as boys and then grow into young men, husbands, and fathers.
Frame was a three-sport athlete at Hagerstown High School, where he played football, basketball, and baseball. He captained the Tigers’ basketball team, but he excelled in baseball, where he was also team captain, was a three-time all-conference selection, and helped the team to three straight league titles.
After one season playing at a junior college, Frame made his way to Huntington College to continue his baseball career. He was a four-year starter for the Foresters, earning all-conference honors in 1983, his senior season.
For a year after graduation Frame worked at a few different jobs before he got a call from Huntington College President Eugene Habecker. In the previous five years, the Foresters had five coaches, and Habecker was looking for some stability in the baseball program. He offered Frame the position on the condition he sign a three-year contract. Frame, who hadn’t really considered a career in coaching, was hesitant at first to make the commitment, but finally decided to take the job. He returned to Forest Glen Park not much older than the players he would coach, including some who had been teammates.
Worried about being respected by his players, Frame admits he came on too strong early on as he learned what it meant to be a coach. He soon realized he just needed to be himself and to develop trust with his players, which extended beyond the baseball diamond. Frame found out that he was not only developing athletes but molding young men.
While he evolved as a coach, he never lost his competitive nature. In his 38 seasons, he averaged 24 wins a year. His overall record is 920-754, making him one of the 10 winningest coaches in the history of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. The humble Frame is quick to put that achievement in context, noting while he has the most wins in school history, he also holds the mark for most losses, pointing out numbers alone never tell the entire story.
His teams have won 17 regular season or conference tournament championships. He’s taken the Foresters to the NAIA National Tournament four times, and 13 times his players have earned All-America honors. Seven of his players have gone on to play professionally.
Frame has been conference coach of the year seven times, and was NAIA District Coach of the Year and NCCAA District Coach of the Year. Huntington University named him to its Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003. He was also selected to the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009, the Northeast Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in 2019, and the Nettle Creek Schools Hall of Fame in 2017.
Frame and his wife Diane have three children — Thad, Heath, and Cora. Thad, who played at HU, has been an assistant coach with his father for the past 13 years.
In 2020, Frame faced the biggest challenges of his life, both in coaching and personally. The COVID pandemic was shutting down much of the country. The Foresters were 12 games into the season when the rest of the schedule was canceled as quick as a fastball. Frame went through the spring without baseball for the first time since he started playing the game. But his severest test was yet to come.
In November 2020, he was hospitalized with COVID, which later progressed to double pneumonia. Frame developed blood clots, including one in his heart the size of a baseball that threatened his life. A second clot in his heel eventually led to the amputation of his right leg below the knee on July 7, 2021.
While he was hospitalized, he missed the entire 2021 season as the Foresters took the field without him for the first time in 37 years. His son, Thad, stepped in to lead HU.
As the 2022 season approached, Frame was set to return to his familiar place in the dugout. But on an early-season trip to Arizona, an errant throw struck him in the left calf. A hematoma developed and Frame faced the threat of losing his left leg. He recovered, but Frame had to give up being on-field for games for safety reasons. He spent the rest of the season watching games from his pickup truck parked on a hill beyond center field at Forest Glen Park.
In August 2022, Frame announced his retirement as head coach at HU, with Thad taking the reins of the program. While he won’t be adding to his record numbers, Frame will continue to add to a collection that means more to him. He is still getting cards, phone calls, emails, and wedding invitations from his former players, wishing him well and keeping him up to date on their lives. For Frame, that represents a win in a bigger scorebook.