Nov. 1, 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 — One of the first priorities laid out by Rick Heller when he was tabbed as the new University of Iowa head baseball coach was getting a more friendly playing surface at Duane Banks Field.
With dirt being moved around and dump trucks frequenting the Hawkeyes’ home field, Heller’s vision is taking shape. Iowa began work on removing the natural grass in the infield Oct. 17 to replace it with AstroTurf. The project is expected to take five weeks from start-to-finish.
“It was one of my goals to get done,” said Heller. “I felt like if we could do it this fall, it would show everyone there is a renewed commitment to baseball at the University of Iowa.”
The project gives the program a first-rate playing surface, while also giving the team more practice stability.
“We’ll be able to be out a little longer in the fall, and in the spring, there are a lot of days in February and March where you can get outside if you have turf,” he said.”To play baseball in the climate we play, you have to have turf if you want to give yourself a chance to be the best. This project will give us as good of a playing surface as anybody in the country.”
“The number of quality repetitions we will get with our infielders and pitchers, it is going to make us better right away. But this is step one and we’re going to continue to work hard in our fundraising efforts to keep making additions as soon as possible.”
UI head coach Rick Heller
Heller praised the natural grass at Banks Field, but says Iowa’s climate and the overall wear and tear took its toll on the surface throughout the season.
“We had a really good grass infield that played well, but when you have to play early, it chews it up,” said Heller. “When you have to play on it in tough conditions, it beats it up. Now, it’s about not having to worry about maintenance.”
Heller says the players are excited to have AstroTurf in the infield prior to the 2014 season and throughout the entire ballpark before the 2014-15 school year.
“The players love it,” he said. “For the time of year we play, it’s a great surface. You get true hops, it’s clean, and you don’t have to worry about rain outs — we’ll get to play.”
With the direction Heller wants to take the Iowa program, he says it was crucial to get the project completed prior to the 2014 season.
“It’s exciting for our current players to see a commitment being made to this program,” he said. “It’s also big to the kids we are recruiting to see there is progress and that it is being done quickly.”
Heller believes the project will pay dividends immediately.
“The number of quality repetitions we will get with our infielders and pitchers, it is going to make us better right away,” he said. “But this is step one and we’re going to continue to work hard in our fundraising efforts to keep making additions as soon as possible.”
Additional cosmetic changes will be ready at Duane Banks Field prior to the 2014 campaign, which includes new netting replacing the posts and fencing behind home plate to allow fans better sight lines and outfield padding also being installed.
The Hawkeyes open the 2014 season Feb. 14-16 at Austin Peay, while the home opener is set for March 19 against Mount Mercy.