The baseball coaches’ office inside Lawrence High is a world of its own, where no coach can get away with making a false statement or a simple mistake.
The coaches continually chime in with their own opinions, insults and jokes. The ribbing nature often spills over into other areas of life, like the barbecues and football games the coaches and their families attend together.
But when the stadium lights come on and the Lions take to the diamond for a baseball game, it’s all business.
“We’re going to have fun, but you have to handle it responsibly,” LHS head coach Brad Stoll said. “We can turn the dial real quick.”
That attitude is certainly cherished by Stoll, Chris Johnson, Adam Green and Brandon Johnson — the varsity baseball coaches at Lawrence High.
All four guys took different roads to the LHS dugout, but now their friendship has helped the program develop into a perennial contender. The Lions won the Class 6A state title in 2009.
Sixth-seeded LHS will face No. 3 Shawnee Mission West in the first round of the state tournament at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Kansas University’s Hoglund Ballpark.
“We’re all good friends, rather than just colleagues,” said Chris Johnson, the junior varsity and catchers coach. “We enjoy being around each other. We’re not afraid to share our opinions and we all listen to each other.”
Chris has never even strapped on the catcher’s gear or caught a game behind the plate, so he learned about the position by attending numerous clinics and asking lots of questions to knowledgeable people.
In 2002, Chris graduated from Lawrence High, where he played middle infielder and outfielder for the baseball team. When he heard Stoll had taken the head coaching job at LHS in 2004, he called Stoll and told him that he wanted to be a part of the staff.
He started working with the Lions’ summer teams before being added to the staff in 2007.
“I guess I made a good impression on (Stoll), so he gave me a job and I’m still here,” Chris said.
Adam Green, the hitters and outfielders coach, has worked with Stoll since his days at Free State, taking a teaching job and baseball coaching position at LHS in 2005.
Thirteen years after graduating from LHS, Green came back because he liked Stoll’s coaching philosophy and how Lawrence High remained tradition-rich.
Brandon Johnson, no relation to Chris, pitched for Free State while Stoll was an assistant there.
Using his competitive nature and baseball smarts to offset his lack of velocity and breaking pitches, Brandon climbed all the way to Div. I baseball, pitching two years at Kansas University.
When the pitching coach position opened at LHS, Stoll called Brandon first.
Their histories vary, but now that the four coaches have worked together for a couple years, they’ve turned into great friends.
When Chris’ daughter was born two-and-a-half months ago, he took two days away from the team. Coaches continually called him and texted him. When Chris came back to practice, the players congratulated him and asked him all about the baby.
“It’s a big family thing,” Chris said.
Chris, the youngest coach, usually bears the brunt of the jokes, especially when his catchers make any kind of mistake. Green called him “a little ragdoll.”
That family attitude also allows each coach flexibility to make any adjustments necessary for their position group. The assistants readily spew their opinions off the diamond, so why would they be afraid to make changes on it?
“If there’s a new thing I want to do with the pitchers, (Stoll) doesn’t ask two questions about it,” Brandon said. “He says just do it.”
But even when the Lions are on the field and the game is close, the coaches sometimes can’t help but shoot barbs at one another.
“This is a game,” Stoll said. “We can’t take ourselves too seriously.”