By Greta Klein
Staff Writer

Finding a community that you can call home can be difficult but captivating once you find it.

Many people search for this type of community throughout their lives. For Hutchinson Community College baseball coach Brock Nehls, home has consisted of several places, but as Dorothy said, there is no place like home.

For Nehls, Kansas has been his professional and personal home. With the exception of coaching for three years at William Woods University in Fulton Mo., Nehls found the way back to his native state.

A Hays native, Nehls played collegiately at Barton and Emporia State. He has coached at his two alma maters, and also two other Jayhawk Conference teams, Cloud County and Dodge City.

“The KJCCC is a great conference,” Nehls said. “They take care of your players and coaches, and it is super competitive.”

This is Nehls’ first season with the Blue Dragons’, and this is just his second head coaching position. His first head coach position was at William Woods University from 2017 to 2019.

Making his way back to Kansas, Nehls returned to ESU for four seasons before coming to Hutch for the 2024 season.

The Jayhawk Conference has been a comfortable and enjoyable place for Nehls as a player and now a coach.

“I’ve had success in the conference and I really like the junior college aspect of it,” Nehls said. “When 18 or 19-year-old kids are growing up, eager to learn and have that passion to move on to bigger and better things, it’s nice to be around those types of guys.”

Nehls’ inspiration for coaching does not come from the success and experience he had as a player himself but instead comes from the coaches he had growing up.

“I’ve been very fortunate,” Nehls said. “I’ve had a great group of coaches that I learned a lot from when I was a player, and that’s what made me want to become a coach.”

In the same way that Nehls looked up to his coaches, Nehls’ players see him not only as a coach but in addition to someone they can talk to like a friend.

“(We have a) really good relationship,” freshman pitcher Trenton Roehler said. “He’s a coach but he is also a friend to the same point. He’s very open so if you have any questions about anything he’s really good about that. He’s very talkative and can talk to you like a peer.”

Nehls has not only established a close bond with his players, but he has also created a positive environment for the team as well.

“Nehls has provided an environment for us to succeed this year,” sophomore pitcher Rece Wilson said. “That comes from him wanting us to play and practice loose but with a purpose. This allows us to go out there and do what we do best.”

Despite not needing to alter any game fundamentals, Nehls said he was pleased with what he has seen from his team this season.

“The numbers we were putting out this year is fun to watch,” Nehls said. “Not only from the offensive side but also from the pitching staff too. We have been really good in every phase of the game. And I think we haven’t dug that much into like a swing or delivery or any mechanics or anything like that.

Nehls is not just interested in improving his players’ baseball skills, but also in their character both on and off the field.

“We want to have quality kids who do things the right way, not only on the field but in the classroom and off the field,” Nehls said. “I think we have a group that has done that and understands it. The way we talk about this is there are two kinds. There are two kinds of people in this world. There are winners and there are losers, that sort of thing.”

The players respect Nehls’ history and knowledge of the game, in addition to his leadership.

“I would 100 percent say that his experience on and off the field has been good,” sophomore pitcher Cole Toureau said. “I can also say that the people that he surrounded himself with, while he played, helped him get there as well and made us what we are as well.”

Nehls uses baseball not only as a coaching tool but also as a means of teaching life lessons.

“We had some times we struggle and I tell our guys this all the time, baseball is a tough game and life is tough as well,” Nehls said. “It’s not always gonna go exactly the way you want it to, there are gonna be some bumps in the road but I think through it all as a coach, player, human being, husband and father, you are who you associate yourself with. So if you put yourself around good people you’re going to be able to sustain that success and get through the tough times as well.”

Despite the ups and downs, Nehls is happy to call Hutchinson his community and the Blue Dragon family his home.

“My family and I are extremely grateful to be here,” Nehls said. “The people that are within this athletic department have done a great job. The people within this community welcomed us immediately. I think the number one takeaway is the support staff that I have with my wife and with our assistant coaches, they make my job extremely easy.

“There are two kinds (of people) but there’s only one type of successful person and there’s one type of Hutch baseball player.”

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