Baseball goes major


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Tonight Iowa baseball head coach Jack Dahm will sit in the dugout across from his childhood hero.

In this game, though, he won’t necessarily be rooting for Ryne Sandberg.

Dahm will coach opposite the Hall of Fame infielder as Dahm’s Hawkeyes meet the Iowa Cubs in an exhibition game at 6:35 p.m. today in Principal Park in Des Moines.

The Iowa Cubs, the Triple-A affiliate of the major-league Chicago team, are entering their first year under Sandberg.

The Cubs appointed “Ryno” as the team’s new skipper on Dec. 7, 2009; he managed the Double-A Tennessee Smokies in 2009. Sandberg managed Class A Peoria for two seasons before taking over the Smokies.

The seventh-year Iowa coach doubts whether many strategic moves will be executed in tonight’s seven-inning exhibition, but he still views tonight’s game as a “pretty neat opportunity.”

“He’s a hero of mine,” Dahm said. He was born in Skokie, Ill., grew up in the Chicagoland area, and couldn’t help but become a fan of the Cub’s second baseman.

Sandberg — elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005 — hit 282 home runs and knocked in 1,061 RBIs in 2,164 career games. He also won nine-consecutive Gold Glove awards from 1983-1991. He was named the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1984, when he helped the Cubs to their first postseason appearance since 1945.

But more than Sandberg’s impressive list of statistics, Dahm idolized him because of the way he approached the game. He loved his style so much he tried to emulate it during his own high-school and collegiate career.

“You talk about a guy who respects the game of baseball,” Dahm said. “You talk about a guy who every day played the game the right way. And it didn’t matter if they were up by 10 runs or down by 10 runs, that’s the thing that always stuck out about Ryne Sandberg.”

Dahm knows his squad’s players don’t have quite the same recollection, though.

Sandberg played his last game for the Chicago Cubs in 1997. Some Hawkeyes were as young as 5 back then.

“I did tell the players about him — I should say everybody knows Ryne Sandberg,” Dahm said. “I assume everybody would, especially because he just got inducted into the Hall of Fame.”

Dahm hopes that Sandberg will have a chance to speak with his players before the game — even if just for five minutes.

“I think that would be a tremendous opportunity for our guys,” Dahm said.

Junior Zach McCool isn’t unfamiliar with the Windy City legend. The Manchester, Iowa, native, who fields the same position as Sandberg, calls the opportunity to play in front of the Hall of Famer an honor.

But he plans on playing the exhibition the same way he would a Big Ten contest.

“We’re still looking at this game as a game to get better and to approach the field the right way,” McCool said. “I’m not taking it any differently even though it doesn’t go on the record.”

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