Brad Stoll set to become winningest LHS baseball coach

photo by: Mike Yoder

From left, Lawrence Lions baseball coach Brad Stoll and baserunners Braden Solko and Hank Dobson, talk during warm-ups for a new Olathe South pitcher, after the Lions scored six runs in the 3rd inning against the Falcons Wednesday, April 12, at LHS. Dobson hit a bases loaded, two-run single in the inning.

Throughout the past decade, all of Lawrence High’s baseball teams have played in a similar, ultra aggressive style. They are known for stealing bases, throwing behind runners and always putting pressure on opponents.

The names in the roster change. Players graduate. Some teams have more talent than others. Yet, no matter who is in the program, they all play with a similar edge.

Playing with risk is something that Brad Stoll and the rest of the coaching staff have preached to players each season and it’s continued to pay off. Stoll will become the winningest coach in program history with the team’s next victory. The Lions open their season Thursday against Kickapoo (Mo.) at the Willard Tournament.

“We spend an inordinate amount of time on base running and we really try to do a good job of teaching of how to be aggressive base runners,” LHS assistant coach Adam Green said. “(Stoll) has done a nice job of making that the trademark of our program.”

Entering his 14th season with a 157-135 record, Stoll is tied in wins with Lynn Harrod (157-93), who started the program and led the school to a state championship in 1996.

Stoll was cut during his senior year of high school by Harrod, joking that it was an easy decision because he couldn’t hit, field, throw or play defense on an extremely talented team. But even if he couldn’t play, he always wanted to stay connected to his favorite sport.

Stoll credits Harrod and Dirk Wedd for letting him help coach the junior-varsity team while he was in college, which eventually started his path to becoming a head coach.

“I guess it’s just one of those that I always had a passion to be in the game,” Stoll said.

Before Stoll started at Lawrence High, he spent seven seasons as an assistant coach at Free State under Mike Hill. Stoll said that’s when he learned to become a head coach, learning how to cut players, devise practice schedules, fundraise and make budgets.

Even as an assistant coach, Stoll had the same personality, keeping it light at practices and cracking jokes that break up the monotony of the season.

“I’ve never met more of a people person,” said Green, who has coached with Stoll for the 13 of his 14 years at LHS. “Definitely one of his really good traits is just making people feel comfortable, making people feel like they are the most important thing in the room.” ?

Hill said there was “no doubt” that Stoll was ready when he took over at Lawrence. He’s always been impressed with Stoll’s ability to connect with players.

“A lot of different styles will work,” Hill said. “But then being able to get your kids to buy into that is really the key to coaching and he does a terrific job of that because his kids do certainly play to the script that he’s provided them.”

As much as Stoll has enjoyed all of the wins and program’s success, including a state championship in 2009, he places a bigger value on all of the relationships he created. Plus, he’s one of those coaches who remembers losses more than wins.

Around Christmas each year, Stoll and Green host a gathering that usually draws about 25 former players. It’s one of the highlights of their year because they have an opportunity to catch up with so many people they watched grow up.

“The old phrase, ‘They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,’ and I really think these guys know there’s five men on this staff who care deeply about their personal well being,” Stoll said.

Hill added: “He’s a terrific coach, a terrific person and as a Lawrence High alum, I’m proud that he is there.”

On the verge of winning more games than any coach in program history, Stoll says he can’t take credit for it. He says all of the wins belong to his assistant coaches and his wife as much as him. No, he hasn’t thrown a pitch or stepped in the batter’s box in any of those games. There were plenty of talented players.

But throughout the last 13 seasons, building a culture within the program, there’s zero doubt that Stoll is enjoying the opportunity to coach at his former school.

“I say it all the time, I go to work every day with my best friend in Adam Green,” Stoll said. “Now I’m coaching my son, who is in the program. I walk in every day and I see all of those great banners every day hanging in the gym.

“Very few people can wake up and say they are excited to go to work every day. I love my teaching job, I’ve been doing that for 20 years. I’m really lucky.”

Lawrence High baseball coaching records

Lynn Harrod: 157-93 (1996 state title)

Dirk Wedd: 43-24

David Petry: 81-34 (2000 state title)

Brad Stoll: 157-135 (2009 state title)