By John Bohnenkamp
Iowa baseball coach Rick Heller knows what he has in pitcher Brody Brecht.
He’s just not sure how Brecht is going to be used in his freshman season.
The right-hander from Ankeny, at Iowa to play baseball and football, has already impressed Heller, even though he hasn’t taken the mound in a game yet.
“Brody’s stuff,” Heller said at Thursday’s media day, “is stupid-good.”
Brecht has already hit 100 miles per hour with his fastball during preseason workouts. Velocity, though, isn’t enough.
“I was pretty excited,” Brecht said of reaching the 100 mph mark. “But you’ve got to be able to command it, spin the ball a little bit. There’s work to be done.”
There’s work to be done on two fields for Brecht. A thumb injury kept Brecht, a wide receiver, from playing in a game during the football season, and although he did get some good practice time in the preparation for Iowa’s appearance in the Citrus Bowl, he admits he’s “already behind.”
“Bowl prep was good,” said Brecht, who is on scholarship with the football team. “It gave me a lot of opportunities to work with the playbook, run plays.”
For baseball, it’s about seeing where he fits in Iowa’s deep pitching group, and it starts next weekend when the Hawkeyes play in the Swig & Swine Classic in Charleston, S.C.
“I don’t know for sure what Brody’s role is going to end up being,” Heller said. “He’s definitely going to get his feet wet next weekend, and then we’re just going to kind of play it from there. We need to get him out there to see how things shake out, not just with him but with other guys. See where he can help the ball club the most, what can Brody bring to the table that gives us a chance to win games.”
“Starting, relief, closer, whatever they need,” Brecht said. “I just want to be a part (of the team) and be able to help the team win.”
Brecht was a dominant pitcher in high school, going 10-0 in his senior season at Ankeny High School with 126 strikeouts.
But he knows he can’t just overpower hitters at the Division I college level. Brecht wants better movement on his slider and curveball, and he’s working on a changeup.
“The velo is there,” Brecht said. “I just have to be able to locate my corners and everything. It’s gotten better since high school, I’ve been able to put it where I’ve wanted to. Obviously not every pitch is going where I want it to, so I still have to work on that.”
Hitting 100 was a big moment, Brecht said with a smile.
“I threw 98 in high school, and hit 99 here a couple of times,” Brecht said. “Just give me that extra mile an hour. Then we had a live set and the adrenaline was flowing and I finally hit it.”
Juggling two sports is another challenge. Football was the priority in the fall, although Brecht said he did get some throwing work in on the side. Baseball is the priority in the spring.
“Obviously, I’m already behind in football,” Brecht said. “I played (high school baseball) through the summer, and then I had my thumb injury. I’ve been pushed back a lot. I’ve been working hard to get back to be able to compete for the job at the ‘X’ wide receiver. Obviously I wish I could be out there for spring ball, but baseball is the priority right now, and that’s where I have to put most of my focus at.”
Brecht was recently ranked the No. 1 prospect in the Big Ten for the 2024 Major League Baseball draft. That seems a long way away for him.
“It was really cool to see that, it’s an honor,” Brecht said. “But I haven’t thrown a college pitch yet. A lot can change. I’ve got a lot to prove, so I have to keep working hard.”
After a fall of working on football on the practice field, Brecht will finally get to play a game soon as a Hawkeye in baseball.
“I still don’t know what that college athletic experience is like,” he said. “So I’m looking forward to it.”