WHEN JEFF SCHROEDER ARRIVED IN HOUSTON IN FALL 1989, THE PLAN WAS FOR IT TO BE A SHORT STINT.
The recent University of Northwestern at St. Paul graduate – who was engaged when arriving – was named the head baseball coach at Second Baptist School and on the staff for the first football season. Thirty-plus years, 15 TAPPS Final Four appearances, five state championships, 57 college athletes and four pro athletes later – Schroeder's mark on SBS baseball is acknowledged with a massive graphic sign attached to the back of the home dugout which is almost not big enough to fit all the accomplishments.
"I think it's a culmination of a lot of small things over the years," Schroeder, who now serves as the school's dean of students in the middle school and assistant softball coach, said. "A lot of investment in kids and coaching staff, facilities and school. It's a culmination of a lot of kids and a lot of coaches coming together for a common purpose. It was a lot of small habits that ended up as great results and took a lot of time. I've had incredible assistants with me and everything you see on that wall, my name is on it but many, many names are behind it."
But winning on the baseball field was not the only reason Schroeder would stay. The people and community of Second Baptist played a major role in this coach firmly putting down roots in Houston. "I was engaged when I moved here and then we were newlyweds. Eventually, we had two kids here, and they went through the school," Schroeder said. "So, that whole time we were growing as a couple, as parents, as a coach and as a teacher. This community – church and school – it truly ministers in different ways."
The first of five state championships for the program came in 2002. That year with a talented group, Schroeder reminisced on how they bounced back from a first inning-5-0 deficit to come back and beat Liberty Christian for the crown. With state title No. 1 in the bag, the Eagles' baseball program took off, winning state titles in two of the next four seasons, bringing the total to three by 2006. "Until you've walked through coaching, the grind of competing or embracing the suck of difficult seasons and the ecstasy of a great season, you don't have perspective," Schroeder said. "So, I think once our kids got a taste of perspective, they realized their work paid off, then they just relaxed and played."
In 2011, Rayner Noble entered the picture. In baseball circles, Noble was known. He was a former professional baseball player – reaching Triple-A within the Houston Astros organization – and a former college baseball coach. Noble started as a graduate assistant at the University of Houston in 1988 and stayed until 1991. He was then hired by Wayne Graham at Rice University for three years before going back to UH in 1994 as the head baseball coach until 2010. In the spring of 2011, Noble eased his way out to practice one day and eventually started throwing batting practice as he continued to come back.
Schroeder had known Noble through clinics and other avenues within the game but hadn't really worked closely with him. That two-hour practice that day changed everything. "I saw a side of Rayner I hadn't seen to that point," Schroeder said. "He has a lot of fun and he's a great teacher." Noble added: "It was a blessing in disguise. It kept me going in the game because for a time there I felt like maybe I would be out of the game. Being able to come to this environment, being able to teach little kids and coaching high school baseball, it's outstanding."
As the years went on, Schroeder would eventually transition out of being the head coach in 2015 and stayed on as an assistant in 2016. In 2017, Schroeder's daughter played softball her senior year. That moved the longtime baseball coach over to the other diamond. "If there was a time to transition it was then. She's only going to be on campus for three more months and I'm going to be gone for 45 baseball games – I may see her twice," Schroeder said. "When I thought about that and prayed about it, the choice was simple. That's a lot of change, it's a whole other world, but it's been a beautiful world."
While Schroeder moved on to softball, Noble stayed with baseball as an assistant. Last year, Noble was given the reigns of the program as a head baseball coach. "I'm thrilled," Schroeder said. "He came here as an assistant coach and served in that role before being a head coach for SBS. I think assistants who earn that opportunity are some of the best head coaches. They know the kids, they know the program, the culture and the history."
For Noble, his baseball life has been a journey that included a time where he never imagined coaching high school baseball, and he reflected on that. "My life over the last 10 years has been a roller coaster, moving in and out, up and down," Noble said. "There's been highs and lows but I always had faith and trust in God that he would put me where he needed me and I could be useful. "Obviously, this is the place … I'm having the time of my life here to be able to sit in the dugout and make some type of impact in a positive way on each one of these kid's lives. It is what I think my purpose is and why I'm here."
As Schroeder stood along the dugout fence and Noble sat atop the wooden bench, the two continued to reminisce. Both coaches. Both with a love of baseball but more than that, followers of Christ with a deep love for the lessons Second Baptist School has taught them and their players through the years. "In Proverbs 27 it says, 'Iron sharpens iron and one man sharpens another' and I think that's what truly goes on here at Second Baptist in a big way," Noble said. "From the coaches to the players and the players to the coaches and the interaction amongst the coaches. "When I wake up each morning, I praise God for the ability to be in an environment like this, around like-minded people, Christians who just love the Lord. We just pray that we are able to be good examples to these young men."