Martin, captains provide leadership for Iowa baseball

With two key leadership pieces gone, Austin Martin and the rest of the captains are looking to step up in that area.

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Martin, captains provide leadership for Iowa baseball

Iowa catcher Austin Martin hits the ball during the baseball game against the Spartans at Duane Banks Field on May 12, 2019. The Hawkeyes were defeated by the Spartans 5-7.

Iowa catcher Austin Martin hits the ball during the baseball game against the Spartans at Duane Banks Field on May 12, 2019. The Hawkeyes were defeated by the Spartans 5-7.

Roman Slabach

Iowa catcher Austin Martin hits the ball during the baseball game against the Spartans at Duane Banks Field on May 12, 2019. The Hawkeyes were defeated by the Spartans 5-7.

Roman Slabach

Roman Slabach

Iowa catcher Austin Martin hits the ball during the baseball game against the Spartans at Duane Banks Field on May 12, 2019. The Hawkeyes were defeated by the Spartans 5-7.

Pete Ruden, Pregame Editor

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Austin Martin has taken strides in the past year.

In the span of one season, the Hawkeye catcher went from a new player in the program to a leading contributor at the plate and a team captain.

That’s a big deal for a second-year player.

“It’s definitely pretty special, because it’s not something that you just get chosen by the coaches; it’s something that your teammates have to vote on you to become, too,” Martin said. “That’s a pretty special aspect of it. It means a lot that they believe in me to kind of lead our team this year.”

It’s even more important considering the state of the Hawkeyes’ leadership.

For the first time since 2017, Iowa will be without Chris Whelan. It will also endure a season without Mitchell Boe for the first time since 2016.

Both players played a key leadership role as two of the three starting senior position players.

Boe was a brick wall at second base, taking care of nearly everything hit toward him, and Whelan served as an unorthodox leadoff man who excelled at the top of the batting order.

The leadership they provided was just as important.

That’s what makes the leadership of Martin — along with other captains Justin Jenkins, Grant Judkins, and Grant Leonard — a key point heading into the new season.

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“The way the program’s set up, Chris and Mitch did an awesome job and left it in some really good hands,” Iowa head coach Rick Heller said. “I think the team gelled quickly, which is kind of unusual. Usually, it takes some time for things to really come together. I think a big reason for that was the leadership from that group of captains.”

The team also knows there’s no going back to the way things stood before. Instead, it’s focused on the future.

“[Whelan and Boe] both held big roles within our team, and the leadership aspect was huge for them,” Martin said. “But they’re gone — that’s the bottom line. So, we kind of have to find a way to fill their void. It’s going to be tough, but I think we have the guys to do it, as well, so we should be fine.”

Captains are selected through a thorough process that includes two votes, Heller said.

Because they don’t know much about their new teammates, newcomers don’t vote in the first wave during the fall.

Once everyone becomes accustomed to the culture of the program, the entire team then votes one more time to make sure there are no discrepancies.

If the same players are selected in both votes, that’s an affirmation that things are headed in the right direction.

“We vote with just the returning players in the fall, and then everybody has a chance to see if the captains earned it when we break for Christmas, and then everybody votes,” Heller said. “It’s the same four that won both votes, and I think that’s a really good sign of the job they’re doing.”

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