Baseball, football combo tests few who do both | News, Sports, Jobs

JOSEPH CRESS/IOWA CITY PRESS-CITIZEN AP FILE PHOTO — Pitcher Brody Brecht poses for a photo during the Iowa baseball team’s media day February 10 at the University of Iowa indoor practice facility in Iowa City. The freshman from Iowa works as a pitcher on the baseball team and as a wide receiver on the football team this spring.

IOWA CITY — Brody Brecht’s schedule is so busy that he sometimes takes notes to make sure he knows when and where he needs to be.

The University of Iowa freshman is working in doubles this spring. He is a pitcher on the baseball team and a wide receiver on the football team.

With baseball in season and football in spring training, it’s all about time management.

“You have to set priorities,” said Brecht. “And you also have to make time for academics, because they are important too. It’s about doing what you have to do.”

Brecht is among at least half a dozen NCAA Division I athletes playing baseball and participating in spring football at the same time this year, according to conference and school sports information directors, who responded to an Associated Press poll.

The others known to do both are Devin Neal, outfielder and first baseman, tight end, Trevor Kardell, Michigan outfielder and linebacker Joey Velasquez, Georgia outfielder and receiver Randon Jernigan, Citadel outfielder and defensive back Dominick Poole and St. Thomas (Minn.) pitcher-punter Kolby Gartner.

At least a dozen other athletes play baseball and football but have either been injured or not competed in spring football this year.

Brecht from Iowa has a high ceiling in both sports.

Brecht, who has a football scholarship, was projected as a high-round pick in last year’s Major League Baseball draft, but he made it clear he wanted to play two sports for the Hawkeyes.

“He’s a mature kid and he’s very good at his business off the field,” said Rick Heller, Iowa baseball coach.

The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder from Ankeny was the 2021 Gatorade State High School Baseball Player of the Year and has established himself in the Hawkeyes’ bullpen. He is 1-2 with a 2.65 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 17 innings over 11 appearances. His fastball has exceeded 100 mph 21 times this season.

In football, he was a two-time All-State pick and a three-star 247Sports recruit as a senior. He didn’t appear in a football game for the Hawkeyes last season, largely due to a thumb injury that left him behind, but he’s fighting for a wide receiver job this fall.

“It would be easy for him to say, ‘Coach, I can’t do it this morning. We had a late (baseball) trip last night, can’t make it until the next day,” said wide receivers coach Kelton Copeland. “It’s not Brody. Brody is at every meeting, Brody is at every workout he can be at.”

There is a balancing act between baseball and spring football.

Brecht’s spring football work is non-contact, but he does strength training, meetings with coaches, and distance running drills with the other receivers and quarterbacks.

“If he can, if he’s available, he practices with us,” Copeland said.

Raimond Braithwaite, the football team’s strength and conditioning coach, understands the challenges Brecht faces and is flexible. Some days Brecht will tell Braithwaite that the baseball team is returning from a street game in the wee hours of the morning and that perhaps it would be better for him to sleep than to do a football weight training session that could start as early as 6 a.m

“That makes a lot of sense,” Braithwaite said, adding that it would be counterproductive for an athlete in Brecht’s position to physically overextend himself. “So we have to be very smart about what we do with him.”

Brecht did well in his freshman college baseball season. He batted seven of four innings against Ball State in his first appearance, and in his first home game, his first three pitches clocked a speed in excess of 100 miles per hour.

Brecht has been at his best the last two weeks, allowing one hit while hitting 16 in 8 1/3 innings.

Brecht’s two-sport success began in high school. He was 10-0 with a .56 ERA as a senior and hit 126 in 61 1/3 innings to lead Ankeny to the 2021 Iowa Class 4A State semifinals. That came after a football season in which he had 42 catches for 599 yards and 12 touchdowns that helped Ankeny win the 2020 Class 4A state championship.

Even in summer, Brecht’s schedule is full.

He considered playing baseball in the Cape Cod League, but that would have kept him away from the football team’s summer practice sessions. So he’ll stay on campus for football workouts and drive 90 miles on days he’s serving for the Clinton LumberKings in the Prospect League.

“I’ve been doing this my whole life,” said Brecht. “I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t have fun and didn’t love it. But I’m having fun.”

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