When Lawrence High junior Albert Minnis left behind his friends and teammates to transfer from Park Hill High to LHS last January, he didn’t know exactly what he was getting into.
Sure he knew that the Lions had a good team and that the school had a well-known winning tradition, but questions about how he would be accepted, how warmly he would be welcomed or how easily he would find his role on the team still bounced around his head.
Today, a few months and 25 games later, Minnis has his answer. To go along with it, he has a shiny state championship medal and memories that will last a lifetime.
“At the first practice, I didn’t know what I was going to get myself into,” Minnis said. “But that day was the first day that I saw everyone could play. I talked to coach (Brad) Stoll about the team when I got here and he told me this was a special group. But that day was the day I realized that we did actually have a shot.”
For Minnis, the regular season was more of a tune-up for playing well at the state tourney.
Not that he took it lightly. Throughout the regular season, Minnis racked up wins, strikeouts and points for intimidation.
In 43 innings, Minnis was 6-0 in nine appearances. He logged two complete games, struck out 64 and walked just nine batters will crafting an earned-run-average of 0.65. But it wasn’t his statistics that most impressed his teammates and the LHS coaching staff.
“The thing about Albert is he came in as a high-profile kid and he fit into a program,” Stoll said. “He fit into a system. He’s getting calls from just about every Division I school in the country but you would never have known it.”
If the calls were limited to most programs prior to the state tournament, the rest jumped on board after the tournament, where Minnis picked up a win, a save and 11 strikeouts in helping lead the Lions to the state title.
It was Minnis, the new guy, who got the ball in the Lions’ first-round showdown with Blue Valley. He responded by striking out six, surrendering one hit and pitching a complete-game shutout for the victory.
He also had a little to do with the mind-blowing 17-0 final score on offense. At the plate, Minnis stroked a pair of three-run home runs and finished the day 2-for-3 with 2 homers, 6 RBIs and a whole bunch of smiles.
“That was probably my favorite memory I’ve ever had on a baseball field, pitching and hitting combined,” Minnis said.
A little more than 24 hours later, Minnis lived out the lasting memory of the season.
“Obviously, it’s gotta be that last pitch in the state championship game,” he said.
In relief of starting pitcher Andy Urban, who picked up the win, Minnis threw the final three innings of the state title game and helped preserve a 3-2 LHS victory.
Minnis’ monster season led him to being named first-team all-state, first team all-Sunflower League and now the Journal-World’s All-Area Baseball Player of the Year.
Although thrilled by the honor, Minnis admitted to being surprised.
“Since (LHS senior) Aaron (Rea) got Sunflower League Player of the Year, I figured he’d get this, too,” Minnis said. “Honestly, everyone on our team deserved this award. But it means a lot to me. With players like Aaron Rea and (Free State’s) Cody Kukuk in the area, it’s a really cool honor. It’s kind of like saying that I’m on their level.”