Iowa baseball team holds camps for young ballplayers

BY TOMMY REINKING | MAY 09, 2013 5:00 AM

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The ping of a baseball bat isn’t an unusual sound around Banks Field on a Monday afternoon.

The source of that sound isn’t from the Hawkeye baseball players, however — it is from pre-high-school ballplayers who are learning the fundamentals of the game in what is known as the Iowa Baseball Academy.

“I see it as a vehicle to strengthen lives and do good things for developing ballplayers,” said Brian Furlong, Iowa’s director of baseball operations. “We help teach kids to enjoy the game, to honor the game, and to respect the game.”

The academy provides instruction from Iowa coaches and players regarding every facet of the game. Athletes from ages 8 to 14 do drills that sharpen hitting fundamentals, base-running abilities, throwing mechanics, and more. The camps generally take place every Monday from 4-5:30 p.m. and cost $250 a month.

Furlong, who is in his first year as director of baseball operations, helps with various duties with the team, such as running the video system at home games, coordinating travel for the team, and planning events for the team, but his main focus is running the academy.

“It’s been great so far. I’ve loved it,” Furlong said. “This position is a nice blend between being able to teach, instruct, and coach, yet still do some of the administrative things I’ve come to enjoy.”

Furlong was a player for head coach Jack Dahm at both Creighton University and as a Hawkeye from 2003-2005. He was also longtime friends with current Iowa hitting coach Zach Dillon. When the team needed someone to helm the new academy, Furlong was the clear choice.

Dillon said that Iowa is in a difficult area of the country to give younger players the kind of professional training that will help them develop. He said that having Furlong at the helm is especially helpful for those in the Iowa City area.

“Brian had a really good foundation in the community as far as giving private lessons and holding camps and clinics with his ties in the area,” Dillon said. “He’s reaching a big audience. He’s really reaching out to the right people and the right kids.”

Dillon was a volunteer assistant coach for the Hawkeyes from 2010-2011, but spent the 2012 season with the Baylor Bears. He helped Baylor with its academy and is bringing what he learned from that experience to Iowa.

He said the program they are most closely trying to emulate is that of Nebraska.

“There’s a lot of positives and no negatives to the program that I can see,” Dillon said. “It’s been a good thing so far, but I think it can get even better in the future. There are some big ideas. Brian and I have a pretty good idea of what it can actually be.”

Dillon hopes that the academy becomes something current and former players and coaches can be proud of and help with year round. Sophomore catcher/infielder Anthony Torres was on hand for the camp held on May 8.

Torres said helping out with the academy is something that not only benefits the young players but also the Iowa players and the community as a whole.

“It’s always good for us to interact with the community,” he said. “It gives us a chance to give back to the Iowa community because they’ve been really good to us here.”

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