Heller details Iowa baseball’s canceled season

Iowa baseball had a lot to deal with after its season was canceled two weeks ago. Now, it's looking to get back to normal.

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Nichole Harris

Iowa head coach Rick Heller watches the game from third base during a baseball game between Iowa and Grand View on March 3, 2020. The Hawkeyes defeated the Vikings 15-2. (Nichole Harris/The Daily Iowan)

Pete Ruden, Pregame Editor

Thursday was supposed to be a joyous day for baseball fans across the country. March 26 marked Opening Day for Major League Baseball, the first action in nearly five months.

Instead, Iowa baseball head coach Rick Heller held a teleconference with members of the media to discuss the cancellation of the Big Ten baseball season.

It’s been two weeks since the NCAA canceled postseason tournaments and the Big Ten ended its spring seasons. That hasn’t made the situation much easier.

The decisions from that day continue to impact the Hawkeyes as much as they did 14 days ago.

They also forced Heller to give one of the most difficult speeches to a team in his career — nearly as bad as when Northern Iowa cut its baseball program when he coached in Cedar Falls, he said.

“I think about the commitment and the sacrifice and not being able to see it through, it’s a bummer,” Heller said. “It hurts. When I had to tell the team that day that it was over, that was awful.”

The rest of the day — and the day before — proved to be just as tough.

Iowa had just finished its first double midweek series of the season against Kansas, picking up wins in both games.

After the series concluded on March 11, the Hawkeyes were set to fly to California at 5 p.m. March 12 to take on Cal State-Northridge in a weekend series.

Iowa still planned to make the trip at noon on March 12.

By 1 p.m., the trip wasn’t happening. Heller then planned to get the team to the facility, tell them the Northridge trip was out the window, and set times for a three-day scrimmage to prepare the team for Saint Mary’s the following week.

Two hours later, the season was canceled. Heller only had had an hour to prepare a speech to break the news to his team.

“[It] was really difficult to get your thoughts together and do it in a proper way,” Heller said. “It was just matter of fact. Here’s the deal — we have no control over this. But it’s just announced that our season is over. There’s no more baseball.”

Heller’s attention then turned to making sure his team was taken care of.

He wanted to see things would work out academically and players living in the dorms returned home safely.

Still, the squad held a sliver of hope.

“I think for the first eight days, the majority of the team stayed in Iowa City,” Heller said. “I know they were all thinking that maybe something would change and we could get together again.”

That never happened.

Now, questions regarding eligibility, scholarships, and a make-up season remain. Potential selections in the MLB Draft could also change Iowa’s plans heading into next season.

Throw in a change in recruiting with most high school seasons canceled, and the Hawkeyes want to get things back to normal even more.

“When you got up in the morning, you were hoping it was a bad dream and that it was all over and that you could go back to playing,” Heller said. “Then obviously, we all quickly realized that is [wasn’t] a bad dream and that it wasn’t going to happen. Then, we started to deal with it a little more realistically.”

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