Hawkeye baseball overcomes practice challenges

Iowa baseball found itself with some challenges in trying to find places to hit and field, but it’s making the most of what its players have.


Nichole Harris

Iowa catcher Austin Martin watches the pitch during a baseball game between Iowa and Grand View at Duane Banks Field on March 3, 2020. The Hawkeyes defeated the Vikings 15-2.

Pete Ruden, Pregame Editor

When its season was canceled in March, a lot of things were unexpectedly throw at the Iowa baseball program.

It was something that had never happened to the team before, so it had to figure out how to work around the fact its players wouldn’t have access to its facilities.

That makes it difficult to practice hitting.

But the Hawkeyes are taking steps to make sure they don’t lose any of the progress they made, finding places to hit wherever they can.

“There are places in most communities that either have a warehouse or a building or maybe even a high school field, wherever,” Iowa head coach Rick Heller said. “It’s just a variety of different ways they’re doing it that’s not all in the same place, obviously, because the guys are really spread out.”

Some players, however, aren’t able to use their high school field.

Catcher Austin Martin used Southeast Polk’s turf field — which resembles Iowa’s — in Pleasant Hill, but the school closed their facility.

Luckily for Martin, his dad was a board member for the youth Rams Baseball Club, which allowed Martin to gain access to cages.

It’s not the same setup Division I student-athletes are used to, but Iowa’s players are trying to make the most of it.

“It’s definitely been different, because we get kind of spoiled at Iowa,” Martin said. “Just scan our card and go into the facility… It’s been a weird transition for sure, because we’ve always had a Grade-A facility right at our dispense. We’re getting by with what we have, I guess.”

RELATED: Heller details Iowa baseball’s canceled season

While batting practice may seem like the most difficult transition to make, Heller said finding places to practice fielding hasn’t been easy either.

For the most part, the weather has turned for the better, which is a key factor in easing the difficulty.

Not every plot of land is the best or safest for taking groundballs. But just as they did with hitting, they made it work.

Now, Heller said, all of the players have said they have somewhere to field and hit.

“[Finding fielding] was a little rough, as well, maybe even a little tougher than the hitting,” Heller said. “The pitchers, it’s a little bit easier because they can throw in a park or an open field or wherever they can find a place. But to find an actual infield to take groundballs on is a little bit challenging.”

By keeping their workouts going throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the Hawkeyes are hoping to be ahead of the curve when next spring rolls around.

It’s not the easiest thing to do in a time like this, but they’re hoping their dedication will take them to a new level next season.

“I think a lot of people, they realize, ‘Oh my gosh, I have so much time. There’s no need to start now,’” Martin said. “But I kind of forced myself to adapt my mindset to, ‘This is so much time for me right now. Why not put it to use for preparing for next season?’ If you look at it, you basically have two offseasons to make good adjustments heading into next spring.

“If you’re able to and you commit to doing that, then you’re just going to be that far ahead of everyone that kind of sat on their heels.”