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Wooldrik back in town

BY RYAN RODRIGUEZ | MARCH 14, 2014 5:00 AM

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As an outfielder for the Hawkeyes from 2003-07, Matt Wooldrik started 44 games his senior season, hitting .323 with 22 runs and 22 RBIs.

Now, in his first year as director of baseball operations, he is one of those responsible for building the Iowa baseball program back to its former prominence after several down seasons.

Wooldrik, an Iowa City native, has eaten, slept, and breathed Iowa baseball most of his life. Now that he’s back with the team, he wants to make the Black and Gold great once again.

“I’ve always had a passion for baseball, especially the Hawkeyes, and the University of Iowa has always been close to my heart, so when the new coaching staff got together and got hired here, I jumped on the opportunity to join any way I could,” he said.

While he’s only been at it for a half year, Wooldrik’s transition into the front office has been smooth for both him and the team.

“The guys really took to the new staff from Day One and have just been really welcoming and open-minded,” he said.

He knows what it was like to win as a Hawkeye.

During his senior year, 2007, Wooldrik helped lead the Hawkeyes to a 31-23 record, the best the program had seen in more than a decade.

One of the best Iowa teams in recent memory, the 2007 Hawks won a school record 12-straight games, 10 of which were Big Ten victories. Ranked 15th nationally, the Hawks finished fourth in the Big Ten that year, their highest finish in eight seasons.

He remembers how much respect he and his teammates had for then-head coach Jack Dahm, something that this current edition of the Hawks have expressed a hundred times over for first-year head coach Rick Heller.

“[Heller] is a players’ coach, no doubt,” Wooldrik said. “The guys just really respect him, and he really knows how to get the best out of guys. He’s not trying to reinvent the wheel.”

Besides the level of respect for their new coach, Wooldrik sees similarities between the 2014 Hawks and the 2007 team that set records.

Relaxed and confident from a hot start, the Hawkeyes are on pace to shatter the records set seven years ago.

“Guys are having fun,” Wooldrik said. “And that breeds winning right there. They’ve started believing in themselves and have really started attacking each game the same way, so if they continue to do that, I see no reason they can’t have success.”

Experience can be invaluable, especially on a team that’s just now getting its first real taste of success.

And while he’s seven years removed from his playing days, Wooldrik remembers plenty about what it takes to win in the Big Ten, something that has helped him connect to his players early on.

“I can relate some of my experiences to the guys and help them out any way I can, both on the field and off the field,” Wooldrik said. “It’s a great group of guys, and it’s been a lot of fun so far.”


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