Hoef ready to step up and become a prime time player

Aug. 20, 2007

Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Thursday, Aug. 2, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2007-08 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.

by Sean Neugent

IOWA CITY — Kevin Hoef has played a quiet, yet steady role at third base for the University of Iowa baseball team in the past. Now all signs point to a breakout season in 2008.

The junior graduated from Triad High School in Troy, Ill., and was a cherished recruit as a prep. He was valedictorian of his high school class and was courted by schools in the Southeastern, ACC and Big 12 conferences. During his senior season of high school, Hoef compiled monster numbers — a .459 batting average, eight home runs, 41 runs batted in and 21 stolen bases.

“Kevin is a very gifted athlete with good size at 6-foot-2, 195-pounds,” UI Head Coach Jack Dahm said. “He is a tremendous athlete who plays the game extremely hard. He was the type of player we definitely wanted and we were very fortunate to get him. When we recruited Kevin, and even now, I would describe him as more of an athlete than a baseball player. He is developing himself into a better baseball player, taking that athleticism and developing those skills on the baseball field.”

It is no secret that Dahm thought highly of Hoef during the recruiting process. The feelings were mutual.

“I really liked the coaching staff and the direction of the program,” Hoef said.

During Hoef’s sophomore season as a Hawkeye he batted .295 with 17 RBIs, giving Dahm all the reason he needed to encourage his rising star to head east to Cape Cod, Mass., to play in one of the most prestigious summer leagues in the country. Most of the elite college players participate in the Cape Cod League. Dahm’s plan did not backfire, as Hoef finished fifth in the league in hitting. Hoef played for the Bourne Braves who took first place with a 25-17 record. In 34 games Hoef batted .317 with 20 runs, one home run and nine RBIs. Because of that production, Hoef was named to the all-star team. Those numbers might have been even more staggering, but he missed a week during the season with a high ankle sprain.

“It was great going down to the Cape Cod League and having the coaching staff behind me,” Hoef said. “The experience was phenomenal and I really enjoyed it. It was great going out there with the best players and pitchers every day. I learned so much on and off the field. Even when I was injured, I learned more off the field than I did when I was playing because the coaches knew so much.”

Hoef will become draft-eligible this season. Dahm has always compared him to Major Leaguer Clint Barnes, a shortstop for the Colorado Rockies. Hoef, on the other hand, would like to model his game after David Wright, the third baseman for the New York Mets.

“I think it will be a little different playing shortstop every day at the college level. It will be tough, but I’m looking forward to it. I would like to step up in the leadership role and lead us to a Big Ten championship.”
UI junior Kevin Hoef

“I really like Wright because he plays the game hard and always looks to improve himself,” Hoef said.

The Hawkeye coaching staff would like to see Hoef step up and move from third base to shortstop in the upcoming season. He played shortstop in high school and was recruited by the UI to play there, but Jason White already had that position locked up. Now the plan is to have Hoef replace White who was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles. Dahm would also like to see Hoef be more of a vocal leader since the shortstop position is the quarterback of the playing field.

“His athleticism…he has a plus arm and great arm strength,” Dahm said. “He is such a great kid. Kevin is the kind of player who makes all the sacrifices off the field. He does things right and that is why I think he will develop into an outstanding player for us. It doesn’t matter if it is on the field, off the field or socially — he always makes the right decisions. Kevin is one of the most unselfish players you will ever find.”

The transition from third base to shortstop is a welcomed adjustment for Hoef.

“I think it will be a little different playing shortstop every day at the college level,” he said. “It will be tough, but I’m looking forward to it. I would like to step up in the leadership role and lead us to a Big Ten championship.”

With all the right ingredients in place, watch for Hoef to break-out his bat and leave a huge dent in Big Ten competition next spring.

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