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Freshman catcher controls plate against Western Illinois

BY J.T. BUGOS | APRIL 20, 2010 7:30 AM

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His voice doesn’t boom across Banks Field or reverberate in the clubhouse, but Dan Sheppard can be heard in the Iowa baseball program.

Hoping to hear what his soft-spoken catcher says when forced to speak, Hawkeye head coach Jack Dahm jokingly asks pitchers after a mound visit, “Hey, what did Dan say to you when he came out and talked to you?”

With his head coach looking for him to become a vocal leader, Sheppard said, he sees some progress.

“At the end of the day, all the players know what they need to do to get the job done,” he said. “But sometimes it’s better to have someone there to remind the guys. I think I’m working my way to that, where people can listen to me and know that I know what I’m talking about.”

Tyson Blaser listens. Blaser, a fellow catcher, said sharing the position has allowed him to delve deeper into the personality of the low-key freshman.

“He is definitely quiet, but when he does talk, people listen,” Blaser said. “When he talks the game of baseball, he knows what he’s talking about. But he is quiet, and he can get better with vocalizing what he’s thinking, because usually what he’s thinking is the right thing.”

Sheppard’s laid-back demeanor is also a strength. Dahm said the backstop is an even-keel player who never gets too high or too low.

In practice, in games, or in big situations, Dahm said, Sheppard approaches everything the same, he has a chance to become extremely good.

An unflappable demeanor, combined with a strong work ethic, could make Sheppard a force in the Big Ten.

“He’s the type of player who can make guys better around him,” Dahm said. “He’s got a very workmanlike approach, and that’s what makes him so successful. You tell him what to do, and he’s going to do it — and then he’s going to go above and beyond and put extra time in.”

The transition from high-school to college catcher is the hardest to make, Dahm said, but the game doesn’t speed up for Sheppard. The 19-year-old insists his baseball rhythm isn’t upset by a quicker cadence.

“You’ve got to realize it’s the same game all the time, no matter who you’re playing,” the native of Downers Grove, Ill., said. “The competition is definitely a lot better, and you see good pitchers every day as opposed to high school, but it’s the same game.”

Sheppard has struggled at times this season, but his potential is undeniable — and is even noticed at the professional level. The Chicago Cubs selected him in the 30th round in the 2009 draft.

After Sheppard passed on a major-league contract in order to further his education, Dahm said, he believes the catcher could take the Hawkeyes to the top of the Big Ten.

“Our goal is to have him win as many games as possible, get into the Big Ten Tournament, and win the Big Ten championship,” Dahm said. “And it’s going to be a lot easier when you have a guy like him behind the plate.”


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