New Iowa baseball pitching coach Sean McGrath excited about talented Hawkeye hurlers

The former pitching coach in the Seattle Mariners organization is focused on getting the best out of his team.


Madyson Gomez

Iowa assistant coaches Sean McGrath and Marty Sutherland give a thumbs up during the Iowa men’s baseball media day at Duane Banks Baseball Stadium in Iowa City on February 8, 2023. With many new players on the field, head coach Rick Heller has his sights on Omaha.

Jake Olson, Sports Reporter

“The ceiling is the roof.”

Those were the first words new Iowa pitching coach Sean McGrath said — quoting a famous Michael Jordan statement sarcastically —  about the potential his new Iowa pitching staff has.

McGrath,  a former pitching coach for the Double-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners organization, the Arkansas Travelers, guide the Travelers to the second-best team ERA in the Texas League, a 4.27 in 2022, believes his time in the minors can prove valuable as he leads the Hawkeye arms.

“I was around a lot of really smart and talented baseball people with the Mariners,” McGrath said. “It really taught me the importance of managing and telling the truth. Really just how to serve as a professional reminder for guys to become the best versions of themselves. It’s helped me a ton to be ready for this opportunity.”

When McGrath took over the spot of pitching coach for the Hawkeyes, he was filling big shoes. Iowa was already established last year as one of the top throwing teams in not only the Big Ten but the country.

Iowa’s previous pitching coach Robin Lund, who took a job with the Detroit Tigers on Nov. 15, 2022, had the Iowa arms competing with some of the best pitching staffs in the nation. The Hawkeye throwers were fourth in the country in ERA, averaging 3.72 runs per nine innings. They also were second nationally in hits per nine innings, holding opposing batters to 6.88 base knocks per game.

McGrath said he’s pleased to be taking over a staff of mostly returning pitchers.

“A ton of talent and a ton of raw stuff on the staff,” McGrath said. “I think just altering the strategy a little bit might help this group. When you got guys like we do with electrifying stuff across the board, it allows for a lot of fun.”

With his experience in the minor leagues, McGrath saw potential professional talent when he came to Iowa City. Now, it’s his job to hone their skills and turn those players into the best versions of themselves.

“A lot of these guys, their stuff will translate to the next level,” McGrath said “I spent last year at Double-A, and if you look around this stuff, a lot of our starters and key guys can pitch in Double-A in terms of stuff. Now it’s just getting them better pitch-by-pitch, getting them committed to one thing at a time.”

Long Beach State transfer Zach Voelker, who has logged 14 ⅔ innings in three appearances so far this season, said the transition was smooth from Lund to McGrath.

“Robin Lund was a big part of getting me here,” Voelker said. “Robin ended up leaving and then we got Sean. He’s been awesome and a great fit. Everyone loves him. We were super grateful to get him when we did.”

While still early in the season, McGrath has already left his imprint on the program. The Iowa pitching staff holds a 2.70 ERA and is allowing 6.12 hits per nine innings so far this season, which ranks, 14th and sixth in the nation, respectively. Both of those marks are tops in the Big Ten.