THE MONDAY HIVE: Oreskovich Looks Forward To Managing Bees

By John Bohnenkamp

Owen Oreskovich said it was an easy decision to take the job as the Burlington Bees manager in the Prospect League this season.

Oreskovich, who was a coach with the Bees last season, is a full-time assistant at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids. But Oreskovich enjoyed his time in Burlington, and the chance to manage a team in the college summer league was too good to pass up.

“I enjoyed my time here last year,” Oreskovich said at the Bees’ spring banquet on Friday night. “Burlington’s a great town, you’ve got a great front office here, good place to be, good people to be around. It wasn’t a hard answer.”

The challenge for Oreskovich has been putting together a roster for this season.

Oreskovich already has 22 players signed for this summer, but is still trying to complete his pitching staff.

“We basically have a full position player roster set already,” he said. “Just looking to add eight or nine arms.”

Oreskovich said several players from last season’s team are coming back — position players Lincoln Riley (.237), A.J. Henkle (.233), Chase Honeycutt (.261), Kevin Santiago (.271, 7 home runs), Joey Fitzgerald (.218) and Sam Monroe (.267), along with pitcher Garrett Moltzan (1-3, 6.81 ERA).

Oreskovich has gotten help finding players from new Bees pitching coach Jack Gray, who is working at Carl Sandburg College this season after finishing his college career last season at Western Illinois. And other players have tipped him off to friends or players they have seen.

“Some guys will text me and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got this buddy here,’” Oreskovich said. “So I’ll tell them I’ll check them out, see if it’s someone we want. And we’ve been able to find some guys like that.”

He’s also gotten help from Mount Mercy head coach Jack Dahm, who manages the Clinton LumberKings in the Prospect League as well.

“Coach Dahm’s been doing this a long time,” said Oreskovich, who also played at Mount Mercy. “He knows all there is to know, and he’s a great guy to lean on for help.”

Oreskovich wants a full roster, because he knows it can be a long season.

“I learned that you’ve got to give these kids a little bit of a break once in a while,” he said. “I want to have a few more position players and pitchers. It’s a long season. Some of these kids will play a full college season, that’s about 50 games. And then they’ll come here and play 60. Big-leaguers do it, but that’s all they do. They don’t have school or anything else.

“So, I want to be there for them, guide them, let them have some fun. Let them enjoy themselves. To me, that’s what summer baseball is for. It’s still competitive, you want to win. But all of the things you learn here — getting to meet new guys, living with host families, getting to know the fans — those are things that can last a lifetime.”

Photo: Bees third-base coach Owen Oreskovich (right) congratulates A.J. Henkle after a home run last season. Oreskovich will be the Bees’ manager this season, while Henkle will return for a second season. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

Brecht Ready For Baseball, In Whatever Role, With Hawkeyes

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.”