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. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — There were rumblings of a potential fall trip during the 2016 University of Iowa baseball season.
UI head coach Rick Heller gave confirmation during the team’s first meeting of the fall semester. The Hawkeyes will take a foreign trip to the Dominican Republic during Thanksgiving Break where they will play four games against high-level competition.
“There were rumors about it, but no one would ever confirm it,” said senior Josh Martsching. “Everyone is excited. Not many of us have played baseball out of the country, let alone in such a baseball dominant country like the Dominican Republic.
“Everyone is excited to experience the culture and see how they go about their baseball and how it compares to the United States.”
The idea was hatched during Heller’s first year at Iowa. He heard about the foreign trips from coaching counterparts across the country.
“This is something I started thinking about after year one, knowing we were going to have a high number of seniors in each of the last two years,” said Heller, who is entering his fourth season as head coach.
“We knew this year was going to be a fairly young team, and I thought back then, if we started raising funds and got the trip on the docket early, this would be a great opportunity to get a jump-start before the regular season.”
The Hawkeyes lost 25 players to graduation and/or the Major League Baseball Draft during the past two seasons. Iowa’s 2017 roster has 20 newcomers.
“We thought this would give us a change to bond, build team comradery, and experience the good things that happen on these trips,” said Heller. “This couldn’t come at a better time; this team is going to need those extra days of practice from a baseball side of things.
“We will be able to go out and compete against good teams and bring the team together early.”
Heller pushed back the team’s fall ball schedule in preparation for the trip. Iowa began fall practices Sept. 22 and they will run through the last week of October. The trip also gives the team 10 extra practices leading up to its departure for Santo Domingo on Nov. 18.
“We’ll get down there on a Saturday night and play games Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday,” said Heller. “Wednesday is a fun day, we’ll play our last game on Thanksgiving Day, then we’ll fly back Friday morning.
“We’ll also have the opportunity to do some community service and provide free clinics for the for the kids during our stay. It should be a good trip.”
Junior Austin Guzzo is grateful for the opportunity. He knows this experience can play a big role in helping the team come together before the start of the 2017 season.
“Being together as a team with all 35 guys every day is going to be good from a bonding standpoint,” said Guzzo. “It will help us on the field in being able to click more. This gives us an opportunity to get to know the new guys better and they’ll get to know us. The entire experience will be good for us.”
Heller is looking forward to taking the Hawkeyes to Latin America — a first in his coaching career.
“This is going to be a first for all of the guys, including the coaching staff,” he said. “All of us are fired up. With so many new faces, having extra practice and to play games, that is a huge bonus this year.”