By STEVE KRAH
Aaron Kroll first made a baseball name for himself in Iowa.
He then coached high schoolers and collegians in Arizona.
An invitation from a friend brought him to Indiana and he worked his way up to high school varsity head coach — first at Ben Davis and then at Roncalli. The 2018 season will mark his fourth leading the Rebels.
Dan Reid, an Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Famer, was coach of the Burlington Grayhounds.
“He was really fun guy to be around,” says Kroll of Reid. “He was a really good in-game manager and really cared about his players.”
When Kroll arrived on campus, Steve Cook was near the beginning of his days leading the Coe Kohawks.
“He was first person I would credit with teaching in-depth about the game,” says Kroll of Cook. “He was a very knowledgeable guy and a really good teacher of the game.”
By this time, a teenage Kroll already knew he wanted to go into coaching and soaked up as much baseball information as he could.
Since the college season was in the spring and Iowa plays its high school in the summer, Kroll was able to be an assistant for two seasons at Notre Dame High School in Burlington and then one as freshmen coach at Prairie High School in Cedar Rapids.
Right after college, Kroll moved to Arizona and took his first head coaching position for one season at Parker High School. He also served three seasons with the Havasu Heat of the summer collegiate Pacific Southwest Baseball League.
With a buddy’s girlfriend studying at the University of Indianapolis, Kroll was asked to move to Indy and began fresh in an unfamiliar baseball community.
“I knew after awhile I wanted to get back to the Midwest,” says Kroll. “When I got to Indianapolis I really had to start over. I really didn’t know anybody.”
Kroll got his foot in the door by coaching eighth graders at the Lynhurst 7th & 8th Grade Center in the Ben Davis school district.
After one season with middle schoolers, he became a junior varsity coach on Brian Hardman’s Ben Davis High staff in 2007. Knowing he would be leaving, Hardman began teaching Kroll the ropes.
Kroll was head coach at Ben Davis from 2008-14, helping the Giants to an IHSAA Class 4A Perry Meridian Sectional championship in his final season on the West Side.
“That’s one of the things I’m most proud of,” says Kroll. “I was able to work my way up on my own. Things happened quickly.”
Kroll and his family (Aaron and wife Brooke have two children — Griffin, 8, and Kamryn, 6) live on the South Side and he applied for the Roncalli job when it came open a few times.
“It was really just a timing thing,” says Kroll, who led the Rebels to a 4A Pike Sectional, Decatur Central Regional, Plainfield Semistate and state championship titles in his second season of 2016 and at Roncalli Sectional crown in 2017. “I wanted to get to a top-end program. The leadership at the school is just tremendous. I’ve been rawly fortunate to work with some great people.”
Kroll, who still teaches Algebra at the Ben Davis Ninth Grade Center, is grateful to folks like Roncalli principal Chuck Weisenbach, former athletic director Dave Toner and current Rebels AD David Lauck for their support at the interparochial archdiocesan Catholic high school.
“I owe a lot to those guys for the success in our program,” says Kroll.
What does the coach believe he brings to Roncalli baseball?
“Stability and overall toughness as a program,” says Kroll. “We’ve put together the most difficult schedule we could to challenge our kids. That’s critical. It’s a big part of why we won the state championship in ’16.
“We want to be challenged every time we take the field.”
Besides Tuesday and Wednesday home-and-home series in the two-year-old Circle City Conference (which also includes Chatard, Brebeuf, Guerin Catholic and Heritage Christian), the Rebels also meet Lawrence Central, Center Grove, Indianapolis Cathedral and Carmel, play in the Super Prep Tournament at Louisville Ballard and then against top-notch competition from Illinois, Michigan and Ohio in the Midwest Select Invitational at Grand Park in Westfield as well as the Marion County Tournament.
“It’s very competitive each time out,” says Kroll.
During his time at Roncalli, he has sent a number of players on the college baseball, including Michael McAvene (University of Louisville), Pauly Milto (Indiana University), Cody Smith (Danville Area Community College), Tyler Lucas and Christian Beard (University of Indianapolis), Caleb Matthews (University of South Carolina Upstate) and Drew Naumovich (Franklin College). Will Harris went to DePauw University to play football.
Kroll’s assistants for 2018 include Mark Pieper, Sam Konkel and Jay Hundley with the varsity, James Thorpe and Ryan Parrott with the junior varsity and Ron Wilson and John Mullin with the freshmen.
Roncalli plays home games on-campus at La Pinta Field.
With the help of the athletic administration, the facility has seen recent significant upgrades. Among them are a new clubhouse, drainage system, mound and plate areas and fencing with blue slats. There is new paint on the dugouts and press box and the outfield fence now sports several banners.
Roncalli baseball has made three State Finals appearances (1982, 2012, 2016) and won 13 sectionals (1976, 1979, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998 in 3A, 1999 in 3A, 2002 in 3A, 2004 in 3A, 2012 in 4A, 2016 in 4A, 2017 in 4A), eight regionals (1979, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1999, 2012, 2016) and three semistates (1982, 2012, 2016) plus conference and other honors.
“We think it’s really important to have the best field we possibly can and to give our kids the best experience possible,” says Kroll. “It’s really important in building and sustaining a successful program.”
Aaron Kroll helped lead Roncalli to an IHSAA Class 4A state baseball championship in his second season leading the Rebels in 2016. (Victory Views Photo)
After seven seasons as head coach at Ben Davis High School, Aaron Kroll was hired as head baseball coach at Roncalli High School in Indianapolis prior to the 2015 season. (The South Side Voice Photo)