By John Bohnenkamp
It didn’t take long for Weston Fulk to impress his summer manager.
Fulk, a freshman from Iowa, showed up for his first batting practice with the Burlington Bees on Saturday and well…
“Oh, man,” Bees manager Owen Oreskovich said. “He came fresh out of the locker room with a bat, didn’t swing once. Got in the (batting) cage, and the first ball he hit one-hopped the 375 sign in left-center. It was a missile. Had to be a hundred (miles per hour) off the bat. I was like, ‘Oh, man.’ I think he hit three home runs after that in his first round.”
Fulk’s first game with the Bees in the Prospect League will be his first competition of 2022. He took a redshirt season with the Hawkeyes this year — Fulk can either pitch or play first base, and the Iowa depth chart was crowded at those spots.
“I kind of had some elbow pain in the winter, so I think that was the best plan for me,” Fulk said.
So, he spent home games at the end of Iowa’s dugout, watching head coach Rick Heller and his staff work. Fulk could always be seen taking baseballs out to the plate umpire, anything to keep busy.
“It always kept me locked in,” Fulk said. “It really helped me, kind of kept me in the game. I got to see what a college game looks like. And it really helped me out. I think what I learned this year will carry over with me this summer.”
Fulk came to Iowa after a successful career at Ankeny High School. He hit .485 with 12 home runs last season, and as a pitcher had a 6-3 record with a 2.42 earned run average, striking out 79 in 43 ⅓ innings.
Playing for the Bees in the college summer league was a decision Fulk knew he had to make. He’ll mostly play at first base, while also getting some work as a reliever as he builds arm strength. The chance to be a two-way player was a lure to coming to Burlington.
“Just to get more exposure. Get more at bats, get more innings,” Fulk said of why he wanted to play this summer. “Take the teaching I got at Iowa, and carry it over to here.”
“He’s a lot bigger than I thought he was,” Oreskovich said of Fulk, who is 6-foot-4 and weighs 220 pounds. “He’s a great kid, very respectful. He’s going to be a great kid to work with.”
Fulk was familiar with the Bees — his grandparents live in nearby New London, and Fulk watched games at Community Field when the Bees were in the Class A Midwest League.
Walking into a clubhouse that once housed a minor-league team was, “super cool,” Fulk said.
“I kind of have a little background here,” Fulk said. “I’m excited to play here.”
Fulk said it was difficult not being with the Hawkeyes in Omaha for the Big Ten tournament.
“But I’ve been watching them,” he said. “It was definitely tough sitting out this year. But I know we’ve got a pretty good team.”
Fulk is looking forward to using a wood bat this summer.
“Just swinging today, it doesn’t feel different,” Fulk said. “I think squaring a ball up with a wood bat, there’s nothing else like that.”
Oreskovich has already seen that.
“He’s impressive to watch,” Oreskovich said.
Photo: Weston Fulk (left) greets Iowa teammate Keaton Anthony before a game this season. Fulk will be playing this summer for the Burlington Bees in the Prospect League. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)