Baseball aide safe at home


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Although hitting coach Marty Sutherland is in his first year as an assistant for the Iowa baseball team, he has never felt more at home.

That’s because Sutherland, a native of Cascade, Iowa, joins the Hawkeyes with some familiar company: head coach Rick Heller and pitching coach Scott Brickman, with whom he worked as a member of Northern Iowa’s coaching staff five years ago.

“I think most kids who grew up in the state of Iowa always had a dream of playing for the Hawkeyes,” Sutherland said. “I didn’t have that opportunity out of high school, and I had been out of coaching for close to four years, so I didn’t think this opportunity would ever come forth.”

These three were an integral part of the staff that turned around Northern Iowa’s program several years ago. Unfortunately, the Panther baseball team was cut in 2009, along with several other squads, as a result of budget constraints.

The loss left Sutherland and his contemporaries wanting more.

“We had a vision where we thought we were in a real good place at the time,” he said. “I think all of us feel like we had some unfinished business at UNI; unfortunately, we weren’t really about to foresee what happened, so to be back here to put that vision back in place is exciting.”

After leaving Northern Iowa, Sutherland, Brickman, and Heller went their separate ways.

Emotionally drained from the experience, Sutherland left the NCAA coaching circuit for four years and signed on as an assistant coach at Cascade High part-time, while working full-time as an insurance broker in Dubuque.

Both Heller and Brickman stayed in coaching, bouncing around nearly a half-dozen programs, enjoying success at every level.

So when Iowa decided to hire Heller as the new head coach in July 2013, it was only logical that his old running mates from his time at Northern Iowa would join him in Iowa City.

Now that the band’s back together, the trio will try to finish what they started at Northern Iowa.

And who better to help the Hawkeyes than Sutherland. As someone who was both a player under Heller at Northern Iowa in 2002 as well as a coach on his staff from 2003-09, Sutherland offers a unique perspective on how Heller runs the show.

“The philosophy is really the same everywhere,” Sutherland said. “Kids who can put away what their individual goals are and really focus on what the team needs and try to make the program better; that’s a huge key.

“Your goal should be to leave the program in a better place than when you stepped foot on campus.”

While he is four years removed from his last gig with the Panthers, Sutherland notices some similarities between the two programs.

“At UNI, we had a little bit of a chip on our shoulder, and I think we have that a little bit here, too,” Sutherland said. “People have been told here that they can’t win or it’s an uphill battle, but we just don’t believe that.”

Although his time as a Hawkeye has been short, Sutherland’s influence as a hitting coach is noticeable.

A team that hit merely .263 with 2 home runs last season has been on fire at the plate through the first 10 games.

The Black and Gold lead the Big Ten in team batting hitting, .308, slugging percentage, and home runs, tripling the previous mark with 6. The Hawkeyes’ red-hot offense has propelled them to a 9-1 start, the program’s best since 1940. (Now 9-4 after being swept by Kansas State.)

Still, Sutherland knows not to let a little bit of success change how the Hawkeyes prepare every week.

“We’re off to a good start, which we’re obviously excited about, but by the same token, we know we still have a long row to hoe,” Sutherland said.

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