Jan. 29, 2013
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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 — Senior Dan Sheppard has his confidence back as the 2013 University of Iowa baseball season gets underway because he can finally say matter-of-factly… ‘I’m healthy.’
“It feel’s great to be 100 percent coming into the season and not trying to work my way in and hopefully I get there,” said Sheppard, a catcher from Downers Grove, Ill. “It feels good to know that I am 100 percent right now.”
Coming off a freshman season where he appeared in 28 games and posted a .260 batting average — the second best among Iowa freshmen — Sheppard was set to take on a bigger role in 2011. Just three games into his sophomore season, however, he was sidelined with a shoulder injury that ended his season and required him to undergo Tommy John surgery.
Sheppard returned to the fold in 2012 at less than 100 percent, and it wasn’t until late in the season that he made it all the way back. He finished his junior year with a .234 batting average with 22 hits in 94 at-bats to go along with 13 runs and 10 RBIs.
“Last year I wasn’t really confident in everything I was doing. This year I know I can do every single thing that I am trying to do.”
UI senior catcher Dan Sheppard
It wasn’t the production Sheppard was looking for.
“Last year was hard because I was supposed to be back, but I wasn’t quite there yet,” he said. “It was difficult when I wasn’t playing up to what I could have been. Now it’s good to be back.”
UI head coach Jack Dahm saw an energized Sheppard during fall ball, and he’s looking forward to seeing that carry over into the 2013 season.
“Dan had an outstanding fall,” said Dahm. “He has the old pep back in his step and his confidence is back. The last 2-3 weeks of the (2012) season, you could see was getting his confidence back. I am looking forward to him being healthy and hitting in the middle of the order.”
A healthy Sheppard equates to a confident Sheppard.
“Last year I wasn’t really confident in everything I was doing,” he said. “This year I know I can do every single thing that I am trying to do. Confidence is everything. It helps with leadership in telling people what to do. If you’re not confident, you’re not going to be able to do anything in this game.”
Sheppard carried over his late-season confidence into summer ball, where he competed in the Northwoods League for the Waterloo Bucks and the Mankato MoonDogs. He finished with a .268 (40-149) batting average with 19 extra base hits (14 doubles, four home runs and one triple). He also scored 27 runs and had 26 RBIs over 40 games.
“This summer really helped me a lot,” said Sheppard. “I was in the lineup a lot, so I could work on everything in my game instead of playing once every few days. All around, my game has gotten better.”
Sheppard is looking forward to sliding on his Hawkeye uniform on Feb. 15 when Iowa opens the season against 2012 NCAA Regional qualifier Austin Peay in Clarksville, Tenn.
“I am ready to be back in the middle of the lineup and do what I am capable of doing,” he said.
Spoken like a confident, healthy senior.