Huntington University baseball will be reconstructing the look at Forest Glen Park this Fall, including brand new artificial turf to the infield and a realignment of the outfield. However, this project will bring more than just a “cool” look to the park.
By Ryan Walker, Staff Writer
The next time you head down to Forest Glen Park, home of the Huntington Foresters, you’ll notice a difference on the field. Soon enough, artificial turf will be placed onto the infield, and the outfield will be growing brand new grass.
The new-look will be jaw-dropping as a perfectly flat layer of turf featuring the “H” logo on the baseball hats will own a presence behind home plate. But for now, the field looks lifeless with dirt and unfixed edges, waiting to be nourished with its final touches.
Why the big upgrade? What’s the difference?
This project means a lot more for the baseball program than just a nice look. In fact, the list of possibilities is endless financially, competitively, and in what Associate Head Coach Thad Frame calls it an opportunity to honor his father.
The story last season with Head Coach Mike Frame was a roller coaster, from testing positive for COVID-19 to losing his right leg and nearly his life. What Frame had to deal with last season was a constant battle, and Thad Frame wants to honor his father because of that and the 38 seasons as a coach.
“At the end of the day, when you pray about it, and you feel like it’s something that’s right not only for the university and the program but also to honor my father.” Thad Frame said, “once you feel like you have that peace of mind that it’s something that the Lord is asking you to do, you sit there and go ‘okay now we got to go out and do the work.’”
Some of that stress that both Mike and Thad Frame have to go through each year is when there is any weather issue between rain and cold. They’re forced to decide to practice indoors, move game dates, and even have to cancel.
Every year the coaches are put in a situation where the field has too much rain or is too frozen to practice on, therefore, making the hour-long trip to Logansport High School, which has turf already, to practice and play games. Last season, the Foresters played their first eight conference games at Logansport due to the cold.
Thad Frame mentioned that being allowed to practice and play games on their field without the weather issues will elevate the number of games they play, helping them at the national level.
“The nice thing about having turf is that it’s not an excuse anymore,” Thad Frame said, “we can come down here as long as it’s 33 degrees, no lightning or thunderstorms, we’re playing baseball.”
The Foresters missed several games last season due to weather, including those eight games that were played on a neutral field in conference play. Compared to conference foes Indiana Wesleyan and Taylor, who have turf fields, they both had eight and nine more games played than Huntington did in the 2021 season. Huntington also lacked in the number of home games compared to both as well, where they had 17 total home games, while Indiana Wesleyan had 23 and Taylor had 28.
From a conference and national standpoint, Indiana Wesleyan was able to host the 2021 Crossroads League baseball tournament and the 2021 Opening Round playoffs. The turf field allows the conference and the NAIA to safely hold tournaments there without worries about postponements and rain delays. As a program, not only will they benefit from playing on their own field in postseason play, but be able to generate revenue through the 11 other programs traveling fans for tickets and concessions.
Sure, Forest Glen Park is a one-of-a-kind park with its beauty and uniqueness. However, it still runs the risk of weather and no shot at hosting tournaments. Thad Frame stated that now with their turf field, one of their main goals is to get the national tournament to Huntington, Indiana, as early as this year.
“I know this community well. I’ve grown up here,” Frame said, “If we get to that level, if you win in Huntington County, people will follow.”
That Huntington community has seen great baseball over the last few seasons. A Forester team that plays well in front of their home fans and near the top of the conference every year. But believe it or not, but the artificial turf gives this team a better opportunity to win.
Last season, the Foresters were top ten in the NAIA in fielding percentage (#8) and stolen bases per game (#9). 1st baseman Jarret Gray says the entire infield group is excited about what the turf means as a program.
“We’re a fast team and it’s really good for us to be on turf because that just makes us seem faster” Gray said, “we take one of our greatest strengths and make it even stronger.”
Both Frame and Gray talked about how baseballs can take unpredictable bounces natural grass, allowing for mistakes. On a turf field, those “hops” are considered to be “true hops” meaning, the ball won’t spin in other directions.
Thad Frame jokingly said while talking about the defense, “I told Satchell Wilson (shortstop) and our middle infield if they have an error here at home I’m going to cut em.” (Yes, really kidding).
On the bases, the turf field will allow baserunners to get a quicker jump when leading off. The mixture of dirt and mud sticks cleats into the ground, making it difficult to move and take the next base.
“Turf just allows us to play a little bit more of our style.” Frame said.
Finally, one of the biggest reasons this project needed to be done was the overall playing level. According to Frame, from home plate to the edge of centerfield, there was a nine-foot incline. That incline was barely getting by normal playing standards as outfielders would feel that they were running up a hill trying to go after fly balls.
With the flattening of the outfield, Forest Glen Park is not only a better surface to be playing on, but a safer one as well.