IOWA CITY — After a long weekend in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the Iowa baseball team was looking forward to resting Sunday night. The team played a double game Saturday and Sunday early in the afternoon before making the return trip to Iowa City.
However, there was not much rest for freshman Brody Brecht.
He took what he described as a “little nap” before his alarm clock told him he had football activities early Monday morning. That kind of hectic schedule has become the norm for the Ankeny native who balances pitching in the Iowa bullpen with competing for a starting wide receiver position on the football team. Iowa.
A graduate of Ankeny High School, Brecht was the 77th-best prospect in the MLB Draft last year, according to MLB.com. He could have been a high draft pick if not for the high financial demands he demanded of teams to sign him. Instead, he chose to play both baseball and football in Iowa.
Now, Brecht’s schedule is to juggle Iowa’s current baseball season with the football team’s spring training schedule. His tightrope act became a popular topic among both teams.
“Hats off to Brody because I sometimes struggle with school and football,” said fellow receiver Arland Bruce IV. “I can’t even imagine two sports. He’s done a great job. He’s in the middle of a season and still training with us, which says a lot about him and his character.”
On Tuesday afternoon, hours after Iowa’s Tuesday morning football practice, Brecht wore a baseball uniform preparing for practice. He caught up with a few members of the media to discuss this spring from his perspective.
“I knew it would be tough,” Brecht said of his two-sport grind. “I’ve done a lot of sports in my life, but not at this level, obviously. When I started it was really difficult, but now I understand. It’s improved a lot but it’s difficult . “
Before the season Perfect Game ranked Brecht the No. 1 MLB prospect in the Big Ten conference in its class of 2024. Later, Brecht made a first impression on the pitch when he hit 100.7 mph during a live session in an Iowa workout. So far this season, Brecht is 1-2 with a 4.22 ERA and 19 strikeouts in seven appearances.
Brecht practices with the football team on game days other than baseball. On match days, he attends football practices but does not take part in them. In addition, he attends all meetings in both sports. He credits the two coaching teams for working in harmony to ensure he is not overstretched either physically or mentally.
But Brecht has made it clear where his priorities lie at this stage of the schedule.
“I’m prioritizing baseball right now,” Brecht said. “Obviously I won’t be able to be 100% in football drills, so I’m taking a bit of a step back. But once the fall resumes, I’m taking a step back into baseball and focusing on football. is just balancing the times and trying to give it your all.”
Brecht was signed up last summer, then broke his thumb during a blocking drill in August training camp. These factors delayed his football development somewhat, but after healing towards the end of the year and a good start to spring training, it looks like he is making progress.
One player in particular who is helping Brecht hone his craft as a receiver is senior cornerback and fellow Ankeny native Riley Moss.
“Me and Riley went there,” Brecht said. “We’ve been doing one-on-ones together and working on some outings. (Last season) going up against him, Matt (Hankins) every day makes you a lot better. It really makes you think about what you’re doing and how can- I improve.”
There’s little movement Brecht can make on Iowa’s depth chart right now, but wide receivers coach Kelton Copeland says Brecht (listed at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds) will be squarely in the mix at the “X” (outside receiver position). ) when baseball ends and he is a full football player.
“There’s no doubt in my mind,” Copeland said. “Brody is at every meeting and he’s at every practice he can be. I can’t see any (way) where he’s not at least putting himself in a position to earn an opportunity to compete for that job in the fall.”
On the baseball field, Brecht’s development was as much mental as physical. Iowa baseball coach Rick Heller said that right now opposing hitters aren’t swinging early in their shots, forcing Brecht to throw in strikes. As a result, Brecht focuses on commanding and locating his fastball early in the count so he can have better control throughout the bat.
Mentally, he adjusts to the shorter leashes a pitcher gets in middle school compared to high school. At Ankeny, Brecht could easily get out of bad situations by overpowering hitters with his fastball. In college, where the lineups are much deeper and more talented, he knows that making mistakes worse will get him out early.
“There were times when I was taken off and I thought, ‘I could have overcome this,'” Brecht said. “But that’s part of the game: don’t make a mess or someone will have to clean it up for you.
“It’s kind of an adjustment. We’re actually learning how to throw here; we can’t just throw the ball hard. We have to locate, hit with our off-speed (courts) and stuff.”
Heller liked what he saw in Brecht’s last outing against Central Michigan on March 26. He pitched two scoreless innings and struck out four batters. According to Heller, the plan is to throw it again on Wednesday when Iowa travels to Bradley.
“It’s just to try to get him to stick to our mental system for pitchers and hitters,” Heller said. “Basically everyone has 15 seconds between throws. They have five seconds to analyze what happened, the next five are to regain control of their body and the last part trusts the plan and leaves their talent and his training take over.
“He (fellow freshman pitcher Marcus Morgan) and the other new guys are going through the same things. It’s nothing new. I think they’ve all handled it well and are getting better every day. ”
Brecht envisions a college career similar to that of former Notre Dame runner Jeff Samardzija, who caught 179 passes for 2,593 yards and 27 touchdowns in the mid-2000s and went on to a 13-year MLB pitching career.
After an early adjustment period, Brecht is focused on achieving his goal of scoring touchdowns in the fall and putting out batters in the spring.
“My goal is to play two sports for as long as possible,” Brecht said. “Eventually, one day, I will have to choose one, but hopefully it won’t be for a few years.”