Kent Stock


 The 2007 movie “The Final Season” immortalized the Norway High School baseball program, and the twenty Iowa state championships won by the school between 1965 and 1991, in a way that only Hollywood is able.  The film describes the last year of Tiger baseball from the perspective of coach Kent Stock, a man whose prior Norway coaching experience consisted of one season as an assistant coach under Jim Van Scoyoc.  Just as Bernie Hutchison had groomed and then selected his young assistant (Van Scoyoc) to take over the program in1972, Coach Van Scoyoc did the same for coach Stock at the end of 1990.

As events played out, it became clear that Kent Stock knew baseball, and how to coach the sport, and was indeed a fortunate man.

Kent Stock was born on September 27, 1961, in Ankeny, Iowa.  He was the family’s middle child, sandwiched between older sister Debbie and younger brother Lee, and from the time he could walk he was carrying, rolling, throwing, chasing, or just handling a baseball.  At age eight he started his organized baseball experience in Little League under coach Gene Riley and his father Ken Stock.  Continuing through high school under coach Mel Murken, Stock was an outstanding infielder, but could not convince any Division I colleges to offer him a scholarship.

Stock chose his next-best option, a partial scholarship at Waldorf Junior College, at the time ranked 13th nationally, where he parlayed a .330 batting average and seven home runs into a spot at Luther College (Division III) in Decorah, Iowa in 1982.

Due to personal issues, Stock did not play in 1983, but made up for that by batting .395 in 1984, and earning selection as All-Conference shortstop.  That year Stock also earned his undergraduate degree in business management with a minor in education. 

After a year as a graduate assistant baseball coach at Luther, he was hired as girls-volleyball coach in Belle Plaine.  Ironically, soon after accepting the job, Waldorf offered Stock their head baseball coaching job.  Despite the college’s higher profile, and the chance to coach a sport he truly loved, Kent felt that he needed to honor his agreement with Belle Plaine, so he remained at the high school.

In 1989, while scouting a volleyball game between Norway and Mount Vernon high schools, Stock introduced himself to one of the Norway players’ parents, Jim Van Scoyoc.  By this time, Van Scoyoc had won eleven state titles with the Norway baseball team, yet he was looking for an assistant for the 1990 season.

Stock remembered:  “As a kid, I always wanted my parents to move to Norway so I could play Norway baseball. Jim Van Scoyoc was a legend in the area and to talk with him was like meeting one of my childhood heroes.”

The two, Van Scoyoc and Stock, established an immediate rapport, and Kent landed a ‘dream job’ working with the Tigers.  The rest is a matter of history, and cinematic license.  Norway won their nineteenth championship in 1990, and Coach Van Scoyoc departed for the Detroit Tigers organization soon after.

Following a roller-coaster 1991 season, and with the full knowledge that the school would close – thus disbanding the team – Coach Stock’s Tigers won the school’s twentieth state title on August 3, 1991, with a 7-4 win over South Clay of Gillette Grove.

After the season, Coach Stock returned to Belle Plaine as head baseball coach.  In 1997 he met fellow teacher Laurie Gaddis, and on January 3, 1998, they were married.  The union has produced two children, Kendrie Ann and Kylee Diane.  They were born while Stock worked as a junior high school assistant principal in the Linn-Marr district.  Kent remained  at Belle Plaine High School for seven years before earning his Masters degree from Drake University in education administration. 

In 2003, Stock was offered, and accepted, a position as a school (K-8) principal in Oak Ridge, and by 2005 he was immersed in helping the production team develop and film “The Final Season”.  Once the film was finished in 2006, Stock used the diversion to take, well, stock of his life.  Deciding that the job of school principal is a 24/7 proposition, that the students deserved that level of effort from their principal, and that he did not want to miss out on the lives of his daughters, he traded on his new fame and took a job as a relationship manager at Community Savings Bank in Cedar Rapids.

He has written a book (Heading for Home), been portrayed by celebrated actor Sean Astin in a movie about the baseball team he coached, led that team to a state championship in the storied final season of Norway High School, and found the freedom to be a husband and father to a family he adores.  He has done it all. 

Kent Stock was a fine baseball coach, and he is, indeed, a blessed man.