Sept. 16, 2013
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa head baseball coach Rick Heller calls the first week of fall ball practice "positive" leading in to today's opener against the Ontario Blue Jays.
"I am happy with the way practice is going," said Heller, who is in his first season as the Hawkeyes' head coach after spending the past four seasons at Indiana State. "The guys are working hard, and they're buying into our system."
With just five practices under the team's belt, Heller wishes another full week of practice was in store before the Hawkeyes would take the field against another opponent, but regardless, he's eager to see his team compete.
"It has been a rush trying to get as much as we can in during this first week, almost too fast getting ready to play a game," said Heller. "I am excited to see our guys compete against another opponent that aren't our own guys. It gives us a chance to get a feel for our guys and how they will compete."
Iowa began individual workouts Sept. 2 and the team began practicing as a whole Sept. 9. During the team sessions, the Iowa coaching staff has been implementing its system, one that stresses playing hard and with energy.
"We're nowhere near where we need to be, but you can see the potential. You can see the effort from our guys and if that continues, I feel good about the fact that we can get to that spot, not by the end of the fall, but by the start of the season."
UI head coach Rick Heller
"Our hustle and energy have to show up every day," said Heller. "We have to play compete and compete harder than our opponent. On the mental side, we have to carry ourselves with confidence and not let any negatives affect us from a body language or an attitude standpoint.
"We need to focus on playing the game one pitch at a time, the task at hand and the next pitch."
Heller says the Hawkeyes are a work in progress, but he sees the pieces to be able to move the program forward.
"We're nowhere near where we need to be, but you can see the potential," he said. "You can see the effort from our guys and if that continues, I feel good about the fact that we can get to that spot, not by the end of the fall, but by the start of the season."
The Hawkeyes return eight positional starters, including third team All-Big Ten selection Eric Toole. Junior left-handed pitcher Sasha Kuebel is the lone returning weekend starter back, but Iowa added nine arms among its 17 player recruiting class. Iowa has 20 total lettermen back for the 2014 season.
Iowa hosts the Ontario Blue Jays today at 3:30 p.m. (CT) at Duane Banks Field. The Hawkeyes will then host Kirkwood Community College on Sept. 20 at 4 p.m., Iowa Central Community College on Oct. 4 at 4 p.m., and Des Moines Area Community College on Oct. 9 at 3:30 p.m. Admission is free to all fall ball dates.
"We'll make some mistakes (this weekend), but it will be fun to see our guys compete," said Heller. "I want to see our guys play hard and continue to implement our hustle system. We'll be able to see what we're doing right and what we need to work on, and we'll keep progressing from there."