Lou Eckerl retired as the athletic director and varsity baseball coach at Calvert Hall following the 2021-22 school year. Eckerl had been at the school since 1982 and the head baseball coach since 2002. He won his program-record 461st career game at Calvert Hall in April and finished with 475 wins. Eckerl won eight MIAA A Conference championships during his time as head coach.

Former Calvert Hall players Matt Bosse (Class of 2011), Brooks Kerr (1987), Zach Rowe (2013) and Troy Stokes Jr. (2014) spoke with PressBox’s Luke Jackson about what made Eckerl so successful as the head coach at Calvert Hall.

Kerr, Eckerl’s longtime assistant, is taking over as the head coach of the baseball program. He played for Calvert Hall while Eckerl was an assistant under Joe Binder. Stokes played in the big leagues for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2021.

PressBox: What makes Eckerl so special? Why was he so successful at Calvert Hall?

Brooks Kerr: I think guys learn how to play the game the right way and then respect the game. He trusts the people around him, values their opinions. He’ll make obviously the final decision, but he understands that we’re all in it together. He gives us the freedom to do things and get that experience. I think there’s a discipline aspect to what our program does. We [teach] them to do the right thing, to work hard. It’s something that we’ve just always done. He’s not afraid to make changes, keep up with the times. But I think there’s a consistency of you’ve got to do things the right way and respect the game, I think is probably to me the biggest factor.

Matt Bosse: I think for me it’s just his attention to detail — every little thing from getting your hair cut to knowing the signs to the fundamentals of pitching or fielding a ground ball. He was just a real stickler for details. When it’s your first season playing for him, it doesn’t really make sense. You’re kind of like, “Is this guy going to coach baseball?” It just seemed like he was your teacher and not your baseball coach. But then we would run a play late in the season like a hidden ball trick that really required a lot of detail and you were like, “Man, that was a lot of detail involved in that play. This person has to do this, this person has to do this in order for it to work.” In the three years I was there, we ran that play to perfection twice in the championship.

Lou Eckerl, Zach Rowe, Brooks Kerr
Lou Eckerl, Zach Rowe, Brooks Kerr
(Photo Credit: Courtesy of Calvert Hall)

PressBox: How did Eckerl stand the test of time throughout his career?

Zach Rowe: He is definitely not someone who has stayed in the ’80s or the ’90s or even the 2000s. When they tell stories about when he was coaching with Coach Binder, he was the first guy to put up a fence in the outfield, to put up a batting cage. In the ’80s and ’90s, he was able to rig batting cages up inside, which was a little bit ahead of the times for Calvert Hall. And as he moved into the 2000s and the late 2000s, he used statistics and some metrics in a way that was able to benefit our lineups.

Troy Stokes Jr.: As times changed, as technology changed, I know him and Coach Kerr would talk about going to different coaching clinics where they would learn new stuff, like the new technology. I think just always learning more about the game and how different people teach it now. Nowadays, I feel like it’s way more advanced technology-wise than back in the ’90s, of course. I remember eighth grade year, they used to do video. I remember no other school had that. They had the technology to film stuff and break it down to you a little bit. Coach Lou was always trying to learn more stuff. I would still say he’s an old-school guy, but he adjusted with the times, for sure.

PressBox: How did you develop such a special relationship with Eckerl?

Brooks Kerr: I think he knew that he could trust me. He knows that I’m not going behind his back. That relationship has worked incredibly. I’m not saying we always agree. We’re of somewhat like minds, but if I don’t agree with him I’m not going behind his back and saying, “Oh, he shouldn’t have done that,” or whatever. I think we have a great relationship, going from being a player-coach relationship to colleagues to now not just coaching together but being very good friends, I believe.

Troy Stokes Jr.: I liked him right away. I played four years under him. I was on varsity my freshman year, so I feel like just having those four years with him, each year our relationship got better and better to the point now whenever I’m at home for any extended period of time, I would always go up there or at least try to make an effort. I would hit him up before I went to Calvert Hall like, “Hey, are you going to be around?” Talking to him, hanging out with him even during school — I might have a free period and I might just chill in his office and just talk. Little stuff like that I think [built] our relationship.

Tyler Webster, Lou Eckerl and Troy Stokes Jr.
Tyler Webster, Lou Eckerl and Troy Stokes Jr.
(Photo Credit: Courtesy of Calvert Hall)

PressBox: Is there a story involving you and Eckerl that resonates to this day?

Zach Rowe: When I was a player, I was making a transition to third base [as a senior in 2013]. … It was a little bit of a tough adjustment just because the ball bounces differently at the corners than it does up the middle, so I asked Coach if he could hit me ground balls before school in the morning. He said, “Yes, absolutely,” and we would go out to the field probably two mornings a week and he would just play pepper with me. I would stand at third base. He would stand maybe like 5 yards [away]. I would flip him the ball and he would hit it real hard — couple short hops, choppers, liners — and we would do that for like 20 to 25 minutes at a time. … It’s not like these were mornings when we already had a scheduled practice. He’s taking time to get up and get here early on an additional day. Those memories are really special to me.

Troy Stokes Jr.: After we won the championship my sophomore year he took us all out to a restaurant. I forget the name of it. It was right down the street. We kind of ran up the bill a little bit higher than what he was expecting when we were ordering. He didn’t give us any guidelines, so we ordered a bunch of appetizers, meals. Some people got desserts. That was funny to see afterward he’s kind of like, “Yeah, we’re not doing this again next year.” So that was kind of funny. He still took us our junior year, it was just a little bit different.

PressBox: How has Eckerl helped you in life outside of sports?

Matt Bosse: He was just so big on the details. A lot of the stuff that he talked about after games or before games, a lot of that stuff comes up on interview questions. Do you have good attention to detail? Can you follow directions? Can you do X, Y and Z? A lot of that stuff really, really translated into my professional life [as a financial management analyst]. … I think another thing that he really did was he really preached being humble, playing together, working together as a team and not putting ourselves above anybody or the team. All that stuff has really served me well in my professional career.

Zach Rowe: I think being around him and seeing how he really takes a second to listen and put things in perspective before he responds or talks or gives a response that he may not mean has really rubbed off on me. We have a very similar approach I think to baseball but also in life. We just want to take a second to put things in perspective. Do we really need to get that worked up about this situation? Or what’s the best response to this scenario that’s coming our way? And to see him do that, to really see him listen and take a second to pause and then be able to respond to whatever you’re talking about and give an honest opinion, that’s really rubbed off on me, as well as just managing the balance between baseball and life at home and life as a teacher [at Calvert Hall].

Photo Credits: Courtesy of Calvert Hall

Issue 275: June/July 2022

Originally published June 15, 2022

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