Chesty alums excel in the pros

LHS alumni Garrett Cleavinger and Bryce Montes De Oca currently pitching in MLB


Courtesy of Nick Krug

Bryce Montes De Oca pitches for LHS in a game against Olathe North when he was in high school. He graduated in 2014.

By Jack Tell, Sports Editor

LHS athletics consistently produces high level athletes, a few of whom have gone on to the highest level in their sport.

Bryce Montes De Oca and Garrett Cleavinger both played baseball for LHS, and now they are both pitching in the Major Leagues. Cleavinger is a relief pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays, and Montes De Oca is a reliever for the New York Mets. Both athletes were coached by Brad Stoll, who is the baseball coach at LHS. Stoll says he is happy he got the chance to coach them and still stays in touch. 

“I actually had the pleasure of coaching both of them in the Cape Cod league when they were in college so that allowed me two more years to continue to develop a close friendship with both of them,” Stoll said. “We exchange frequent text messages as well. I send them messages after each outing, good or bad. They are both relievers, and that can be a brutal role. It might be a pick me up text or congratulatory.”

Cleavinger graduated from LHS in 2012, after leading the Lions to three state tournament appearances. As a senior, he was named LHS team MVP, and made first team all area, all Sunflower League, and all-state. His senior year he held opposing batters to a batting average of .164, and had a 1.92 ERA. 

He played college baseball at Oregon, and played for Falmouth in the Cape Cod league in the summers. After three years, he ranked top ten in Oregon history for appearances, saves, games finished, and wins. 

He then spent five years in the minor leagues before making his first major league appearance for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2020. He was then traded to the Dodgers, where he pitched in 22 games with an ERA of 3.00. In 2022 he pitched for the Tampa Bay Rays, throwing in 11 games, with an ERA of 4.11. He recently pitched against the Yankees and he struck out established stars Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. At 28 years old, he is an experienced and valuable weapon in the bullpen for the Rays. 

Bryce Montes De Oca played for LHS from 2011 to 2014. He excelled in high school, and then moved to play college baseball at Mizzou. He pitched in 23 games, with a total ERA of 4.56. He also played for Falmouth in the summers, where he played in 16 total games. He spent three years in the minor leagues before being called up to the New York Mets in September 2022. He pitched in three games for the Mets before a hamstring issue sent him down to Triple A Syracuse. He prides himself on a fiery fastball that he can throw over 100mph.

These excelling athletes were produced by a baseball program that is built for success. Stoll explained that the program has historic roots of excellence. 

“We have seen such great players come through the program, even before I was the coach,” Stoll said. “We as a coaching staff make sure current players are aware of the proud tradition and history of the program. I also believe that a school like ours has such high expectations for its athletic programs. Competing every day in practice with high expectations and against other teammates that want to win and represent Lawrence High only breeds not only physically tough but mentally tough individuals.”

The LHS football program has also produced many elite athletes, including Amani Bledsoe, who plays for the Atlanta Falcons, and current NCAA Division I football player Devin Neal. Neal is in his sophomore year at the University of Kansas, where he is leading the team in rushing yards this season.

Bledsoe, Neal, Cleavinger, De Oca, and all LHS graduates are instilled with a lifelong love for LHS, and Stoll attested to his players’ outstanding character. 

“Both of these young men are proud to be Chesty Lions,” Stoll said. “They donate to our booster club, they speak to the team when they are in town. They played multiple sports when they were here and they were excellent students. I am beyond proud of them! It means the world to me when I tell them how much I love them and they reply ‘I love you too Coach!’”