Q&A with baseball head coach Rick Heller

BY DI STAFF | SEPTEMBER 18, 2013 5:00 AM

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Iowa baseball head coach Rick Heller was hired on July 15. At Upper Iowa, Northern Iowa, and, most recently, Indiana State, he took the baseball programs from the basements of their conferences to the top. Heller has won 692 games in 26 seasons as a head coach.

Daily Iowan TV caught up with Heller and asked him about his transition back to Iowa.

DI: As a native of Eldon, Iowa, a former coach of Upper Iowa and UNI, and most recently the head coach at Indiana State, how does it feel to be back in Iowa?

Heller: It feels great. It’s been a lot of fun, exciting. A lot of friends and family, a lot of nice cards and letters from people that are happy for me; I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I am to be back.  

DI: At both Upper Iowa and UNI you were kind of credited for turning both of those programs around. The Iowa baseball team has kind of struggled for some time. How do you approach turning around yet another program?

Heller: We’re going to come in and put our system in, which revolves around hustle and high energy, and working hard, and doing a good job on and off the field. I think we do a really nice job with player development, and we’ll install our system there. I think we have a great group of kids to start with so we’re excited to get going.

DI: You also interviewed for head coach when former head coach Jack Daum was hired. What’s the difference between the coach who sits here today from the coach who interviewed 10 years ago?

Heller: Well, I’ve obviously grown as a coach and going through the dropping of baseball at UNI was a hard thing, so it made me tougher, it made me better. Having the opportunity to coach at Indiana State who had a good tradition, great tradition, and to go down there and to be able to have the success that we had forced me outside my comfort zone, forced me to learn different things, to do different things, and I just think 10 years older and more experienced and going through a lot of what I went through in those 10 years has made me a better coach.

DI: Let’s talk about Banks Field. It was built in 1974 and had a minor facelift in 2010, in which they resurfaced the field and added some batting cages. With other Big Ten programs such as Indiana and Minnesota having just built brand-new stadiums, has there been a conversation between you and Athletics Director Gary Barta about possible upgrades in the future?

Heller:  No question we have a nice field, but it needs some improvements to catch up with the rest of the Big Ten, and it’s really just happened here in the last three or four years with the facility improvements across the league. We need to win some more; I mean, that’ll help. When you win, the people will come out, and obviously, playing in the north and playing in Iowa where the weather dictates a lot of it and how many fans that we have, but I think if we put a good product on the field and we play a good brand of baseball, which I believe we will, then we will definitely be able to improve our attendance.

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