Lou Eckerl has been such a fixture at Calvert Hall sporting events for the past 40 years that his impending retirement at the end of this school year as the Cardinals’ athletic director and baseball coach will require a major adjustment.
“As a DA at a school that has 1,200 boys and 800 of them play sports, he spends a lot of time there,” said Brooks Kerr, his baseball team assistant coach of 21 years.
Eckerl, who turns 70 later this year, spends so much time presiding over Calvert Hall sports that he felt he owed it to himself and his family to finally step away and dedicate more time to them and to other interests.
His wife, Carol, who is four years younger, recently retired from her job as a social worker, and Eckerl decided to hang on for another year at Calvert Hall before joining her for the next chapter of their lives. whole.
“It’s time for me to retire and take care of my wife, travel, enjoy my grandkids and have fun,” Eckerl said.
He made a promise to his wife when he decided to retire.
“Whatever she wants to do, we will do,” Eckerl said.
But stepping away from a job he loved so much and put in so many hours of each year, often at the expense of time spent with family and friends, will take Eckerl some getting used to.
He said he would miss it “a lot”, especially working with the players and interacting with the people he has known for many years.
“It was one of those jobs that was perfect for me,” Eckerl said. “As the old saying goes, if you get a job you really love, you won’t work a day in your life.”
Eckerl arrived at Calvert Hall in 1982 after seven years as a coach, teacher and athletic director at his alma mater, Cardinal Gibbons.
He was the head coach of the Crusaders baseball team for his last three years in school and left for Calvert Hall right after Gibbons won an MIAA championship.
“The work has opened [at Calvert Hall], and I applied for it and I came and interviewed,” he said. “I think I had really good references from some people at Calvert Hall. I was young. I was 30 years old. I was lucky and got the job. I had been AD at Cardinal Gibbons. So I had some experience in that. I guess they liked what I said.
During his first two years at Calvert Hall, Eckerl did not coach at all. But after proving that he could do all his job in due time, he joined Joe Binder’s baseball team and served as a football assistant.
“The tradition here at the school, the legacy with the alumni, I just knew it was a great place to work,” Eckerl said.
At various times, Eckerl briefly took a break from coaching to attend to his other responsibilities. He did not take over as head coach of the baseball team until Binder retired in 2001 after 22 years on the job. Eckerl has held the position ever since.
“He is very direct. He’s a thorough guy. He respects the game and does it the right way,” Kerr said of Eckerl. “He will do what he thinks he has to do to put the players in a position to succeed.”
Sometimes that means instilling discipline and emphasizing the finer points of the game.
“If it’s a 3-0 count and you’re given the sign to take [a pitch], you better take it,” Kerr said. “If you don’t take, there are consequences. I don’t care if the ball is right in the middle, if he tells you to take, you will take.
Asked about the consequences a player could face, Kerr replied: “You get out of the game”, regardless of their stature in the team or their quality of play.
Kerr said that doesn’t happen very often. But, when it does, a point is made.
Eckerl has always believed that doing all the little things right will make the bigger tasks much more manageable. He won over 500 baseball games during his coaching career. That includes eight MIAA A conference championships at Calvert Hall, with the last title coming in 2019.
Eckerl eclipsed Binder for the most coaching wins as a Calvert Hall baseball coach with a win over Mount Saint Joseph on April 8, the 461st of his Cardinals career.
“From the outside, looking inside, you might think he’s really serious all the time, and don’t get me wrong, he takes care of business. But once you get to know him, it’s he’s a pretty cool, pretty relaxed guy,” said Troy Stokes Jr., who made his major league debut last May as an outfielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates after playing for Eckerl at Calvert Hall from 2011 to 2014. .
After opting for free agency following the end of the 2021 season, Stokes signed with the independent Atlantic League of Professional Baseball’s York Revolution in early April.
“As long as you play hard and do everything you need to do, you would have no problem playing for Coach Eckerl,” Stokes said.
Perhaps the best year of Eckerl’s coaching career was 2007. Calvert Hall’s varsity, junior, and freshman baseball teams all went undefeated. The college team went 33-0 and captured the MIAA A Conference title.
“For that to happen when you’re in charge of a program, it’s really phenomenal,” Eckerl said.
As Eckerl steps away from his job, he leaves Calvert Hall’s baseball program in pretty good shape, as he’s set to open his own year-round indoor practice facility.
Kerr, who played for Eckerl at Calvert Hall, has already been tapped to succeed him as head coach, which will allow for some continuity.
“He cares,” Kerr said of Eckerl. “If you ask for help with something, he’ll do it. He doesn’t say no. He is also loyal, perhaps sometimes mistakenly. I will miss that quality, just being with him.
Photo credits: Courtesy of Calvert Hall Athletics
Number 274: April/May 2022
Originally published on April 20, 2022