OMAHA, Neb. – It’s easy to focus on the flashy parts of the Michigan baseball team: the stolen bases, the diving catches, the extra-base hits. It’s especially true as of late, as the Wolverines have ascended to higher and higher stages of the collegiate game.
It’s easy to forget the logistics that go into those exciting moments, what Michigan coach Erik Bakich calls “web gem plays” and “Twitter swings.” Someone has to analyze the hours of film and data the team collects. That analysis is used to determine which pitches the players should swing at for those extra-base hits, when they should take a lead off the bag for each pitcher they’ll face and which pitches they should steal on.
For the past four years, that someone has been senior student manager Kyle Frank.
“I’ve been a Michigan fan – and a baseball fan – for my entire life,” Frank said. “When I got into school, I walked up to coach Bakich at orientation and said, ‘Coach, I’m coming to school here, and I’m helping this team out in any way possible, and you don’t really have a say in the matter.’
“It’s really a testament to him just being so open, letting me hop on board. And the players, too, just being so welcoming, and letting me be a part of the family.”
Student managers “wear a lot of different hats,” Frank said. On any given day, he could be hitting grounders to infielders in practice, going through film to tag it in the team’s system, catching for the bullpen pitchers, throwing batting practice, setting up the field for the coaches, or any one of a dozen or more other tasks.
Frank and the other student managers are an essential part of helping to run the team and getting it to this point, at the highest stage in college baseball.
“There’s no limits to it – whatever we need help with, those guys are willing and able,” Bakich said. “They’re a primary reason for our team’s success. There’s a lot of people that have touched our program that have enabled us to advance this far, and our student managers are a huge part of that.”
His efforts don’t go unnoticed by the team itself, either. After a particularly good catch or trip around the bases at Thursday’s practice, Frank elicited cheers just as loud – if not louder – as those that any of the players did, with a few added calls of “manager of the year!”
Despite the nominal separation between the athletes and the managers, it’s clear just being around the team that Frank is as much a part of it as anyone else.
“Kyle is very much one of the guys, one of the teammates,” Bakich said. “He’s got the same relationship with the guys in that locker room like there’s no title – he’s just one of the guys.”
The hours are long – often longer than those of the athletes themselves – and the days are busy. But for Frank, there’s nothing else he’d rather be doing.
“It lets you be a kid,” Frank said. “It lets you take a break from reality for a little bit. You get to mess around with your best friends, and just have a smile on your face, and just forget about everything else.”