‘It makes zero sense’: Iowa head coach Rick Heller thinks the college baseball season should begin later in the year

Heller has spoken multiple times about the disadvantages of the February start to the season.


Grace Smith

Iowa head coach Rick Heller smiles during the first baseball game of a doubleheader between Iowa and Illinois at Duane Banks Field in Iowa City on Saturday, April 9, 2022. The Hawkeyes defeated the Fighting Illini, 4-2.

Jake Olson, Sports Reporter

After the Iowa baseball team took down No. 1 LSU, 12-4, earlier this season in Round Rock, Texas, Hawkeye head coach Rick Heller had some strong words about the season’s February start.

“Could you imagine if LSU football couldn’t practice on the field and had to practice in the gym? I mean, give me a break,” Heller said. “Here we are in 2023, and we are playing in the winter when three-quarters of the country can’t even go outside. It’s just senseless.”

Days later, after Iowa beat Loras College, 9-2, in late February, Heller again addressed the problems with playing regular season games during the second month of the year. One of the main issues, he said, is the lack of scrimmaging opportunities for his team. Weather prohibits the Hawkeyes from being able to get in-game experience before the first official pitch of the season is thrown.

“The years I have been at Iowa, we have never scrimmaged on a baseball field before we went south and played,” Heller said. “We can’t simulate indoors, those game-like situations. You can train and be ready, our facility is fantastic indoors, but you cannot scrimmage in there.”

In the 10 years he has been with the Hawkeyes, Heller said this is the first year Iowa has been able to scrimmage in the weeks leading up to opening day.

While having the best start in program history under his guidance, sitting at 19-3 as of March 25, Heller gives some of that credit to Mother Nature.

“I think you kind of see the results,” Heller said. “It gave us a chance to get off to a hot start. We were more prepared for what we were going to encounter once the season started.”

Another disadvantage for northern baseball clubs is scheduling midweek competitions. Not many southern schools are willing to travel multiple hours on a bus to play in Iowa City one time, where it could be 30 degrees and snowing, Heller said. That leaves minimal options for the Hawkeyes as they try to schedule teams in the area that are willing to travel for a single game.

“We schedule a lot of non-Division I games in early February and March just because they are the only teams close to us, with Iowa State and Northern Iowa not having baseball,” Heller said. “You can’t just call somebody up and say to come over or move the game to Tuesday or Wednesday if you are scheduling other D-I teams.”

While Heller knows the start date for the season might not change, he still pushes for it, claiming that starting later would not only make it easier for northern teams, but publicize college baseball more.

“There is really one reason why we aren’t moving the season back, and that’s because people don’t want to lose their advantage,” Heller said. “It makes zero sense that we are doing this. We should be training right now and get outside and practice. Ramp our pitcher properly so there is less chance of injury.”