IOWA CITY — When the weather canceled a mid-week game for the Iowa baseball team last week, it didn’t mean a day off for Hawkeye pitcher Brody Brecht.
Instead, it provided the freshman with a chance to get better on the football field as Brecht works to juggle both sports.
Brecht participated in the fourth of Iowa’s 15 spring practices last Tuesday morning, running drills with the wide receivers in hopes of positioning himself for an opportunity on the football field next fall.
By the weekend, it was back to baseball and a Big Ten season-opening series at Michigan for the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Ankeny, Iowa, native who is attempting to thrive as a two-sport athlete at the college level .
Iowa receivers coach Kelton Copeland said Wednesday he admires Brecht for trying to make it all work.
“He has gone beyond measure to make certain he is accountable with football and his other sport, baseball,” Copeland said. “His splitting time between the two sports is very tough, very tough. Just being a one-sport athlete is very time demanding on a lot of different levels but to do two sports, it’s literally double the load.”
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Brecht, ranked as the top freshman pitching prospect in the Big Ten, is working out of the bullpen for the Hawkeye baseball team this season.
His fastball touching 100 miles per hour on occasion for the first time as Iowa worked toward the start of the year, Brecht has made seven relief appearances for the Hawkeyes. He is 1-2 with a 4.22 ERA, striking out 19 batters and walking 12 in 10.2 innings of work.
Baseball is and will remain his priority during the spring semester but that has not prevented Brecht being an active participant in football.
He pitched at the high school level last summer for Ankeny, delaying his arrival on campus until the end of July.
Brecht then missed the majority of the football season last fall after suffering a thumb injury on his pitching hand about a week into fall camp, putting Brecht in a position where he is working to make up as much ground as he can in football this spring.
He participates in the Hawkeyes’ spring practices on days when the baseball team does not have a game — something that became a possibility last Tuesday when cold weather prompted the early cancellation of a game at Illinois State.
He also attends every meeting he can, both within his position group and with Copeland, provided that they do not conflict with baseball.
“They’re in season right now, so that’s the priority,” Copeland said.
It’s a test of Brecht’s time management skills that Copeland said the young player is passing.
He said Brecht has communicated exceptionally well with him, with strength and conditioning coach Raimond Braithwaite and coach Kirk Ferentz at every step along the way.
“It would be easy for him to say, ‘Coach, I can’t make it this morning. We had a late trip last night, I can’t make it, ‘but that’s not Brody,” Copeland said. “Brody is at every meeting, every practice he has been able to be at.”
Receiver Arland Bruce IV said he respects what Brecht is attempting to accomplish.
“It’s hard to balance school and one sport, but he’s trying to make it work with two sports. That can’t be easy,” Bruce said. “When he’s out here with us, he’s really working hard, learning everything he can.”
Bruce and Keagan Johnson combined to make 13 starts at receiver positions for Iowa last fall as freshmen, catching 43 passes for 561 yards and three touchdowns.
The Hawkeyes return Nico Ragaini and Charlie Jones at receiver as well after the pair combined for 47 catches last season.
But, Copeland sees an opportunity to compete for playing time at one of the receiver positions next fall.
Brecht most likely fits in the mix at the ‘X’ receiver spot on Iowa’s offensive alignment.
With Tyrone Tracy Jr. transferring to Purdue and Johnson perhaps better suited to move around between receiver positions because of his skill as a playmaker, Brecht has the size and length to fit in at the ‘X’ position.
“I don’t see any situation where he doesn’t put himself in the position to at least earn the opportunity to compete for that position in the fall,” Copeland said.
From what he’s seen of Brecht on the practice field, Copeland believes he can fill that role.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that with a kid like him, the IQ he has and more importantly the willpower he has, he can make it all work. At the end of the day, there a lot of guys that talk about it, say they want to dual sport and want to be great,” Copeland said.
“Adding Brody to the mix is going to benefit the room. It’s going to benefit the offense and the team. There are enough opportunities out there.”