City Showdown marks beginning of the end for father-son duo

photo by: Conner Becker/Journal-World

Lawrence High head baseball coach Brad Stoll (left) and his son, Sammy (right), are preparing for the end of a family tradition on the diamond.

There’s a treasured trust between Lawrence High baseball’s coach and first baseman.

Father and son, head coach Brad Stoll and first baseman Sammy Stoll live and breathe baseball, and on Monday the Chesty Lions duo just might play their final City Showdown together when LHS tries to avenge last year’s bitter 13-3 regional title loss to rival Free State.

But there’s more to the game for them than the storied rivalry. Baseball has driven the family bond since Brad began his coaching career assisting longtime coach Mike Hill at Free State in 1998.

Assisting Hill from 1998 to 2004, Stoll credits Hill with providing the mentorship and fatherly tools – Hill coached his own son, Matthew Hill there — to confidently take on the LHS job in the summer of 2004.

“I’ve had some really good influences,” Stoll said. “Luckily for me, I think in our game, it’s pretty subjective. It’s not like swimming or golf or track – you have to use the naked eye … I never felt like I was using my fatherly love over trying to win a baseball game.”

Brad claims his two sons, Jackson, who graduated in 2021, and Sammy, who graduates this month, derived their athletic abilities from their mother, Emili, who played basketball at Emporia State. Still, both Stoll boys lettering on the ballfield isn’t a coincidence – it’s a part of their DNA.

A handful of seasons into his nearly 20-year career at LHS, Brad began spending his summers as an assistant coach for the Falmouth Commodores of the Cape Cod Baseball League on the East Coast.

It was during that time that Stoll’s sons, then as young as 3, were exposed to players who would go on to make names for themselves in the MLB, including Brady Singer (Kansas City Royals), Rhys Hoskins (Milwaukee Brewers) and Kevin Newman (Arizona Diamondbacks).

photo by: Contributed photo

Baseball’s been part of the Stoll family since long before Brad Stoll’s coaching days began at LHS.

Opportunities and experiences matter to Sammy, who had long wanted to play for his dad.

“I’ve been wanting to play for the varsity team for however many years (Brad)’s been here. It was pretty fun to get out there and start my journey as Chesty Lion… I’ve been pretty grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given.”

Committed to Hutchinson Community College, Sammy finished April hitting .297 with 11 RBIs in the waning days of his senior campaign. After his playing career, Sammy dreams of coaching at the highest level possible.

“I’ve always wanted to do something in baseball,” he added. “No matter what that is, if it’s scouting or coaching or anything like that, I’d love to do that.”

Sammy considers his older brother Jackson “kind of a genius.” The older Stoll son, who currently studies physics and continues his baseball career at Grinnell College in Iowa, was a part of multiple special seasons at LHS, but never a state tournament.

Now, Brad, Sammy and the Lions (13-10) are on the clock to punch the school’s first ticket to state in more than a decade. LHS sits eighth in the 6A east region and ended April at 7-8 for the month following a 7-0 loss to Olathe West on Thursday.

A heated race for the regional pennant can give others the wrong idea about the father-son dynamic, Sammy Stoll said.

“Some people think, after (losses), that it’s rough as home,” he said lightheartedly. “He does a good job of turning it on and off, coach and dad. On the field, you can definitely tell there’s some things here and there. He pushes me harder and knows what my full potential is.”

As his second son now approaches college, Brad Stoll is sticking behind Sammy’s goal to stay in the game.

From wiffle balls in the basement to the Lions’ “custom” hitting bay and locker room built by the players themselves at the former Centennial School building behind LHS’ home field, the Stolls have poured in countless hours to remain focused.

Not worried about distractions, Brad recognizes his son’s passion.

“He truly does love the game of baseball,” Brad Stoll said. “He’s pretty focused on that and with 14 seniors, the chemistry’s really cool. It’s a really tight-knit bunch of kids and a lot of them have played since they were little kids together … There’s just some awesome leadership in that locker room. It gives you a little peace of mind as a head coach.”

Last year’s regional title defeat to Free State burned especially hot for LHS, considering the Lions beat the Firebirds by nine runs during the regular season.

Should another postseason meeting await the Stolls and LHS this spring, the Lions could take the first step toward proper vengeance with a win this week.

First pitch is set for 7 p.m. Monday at KU’s Hoglund Ballpark.


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