Class of 2016
For junior pitcher Blake Hickman, receiving a college education wasn’t always a guarantee. But when the University of Iowa baseball program offered him a scholarship as a freshman at Simeon Academy in Chicago, he knew he might just have a shot.
“Being from Chicago, having the opportunity to go to college and work toward a degree was a huge deal; not everyone has that chance,” said Hickman. “Iowa was the first school to offer me a scholarship and that meant a lot. As a freshman in high school, coach (Jack) Dahm was ready to take a chance on me and that’s ultimately what drove me to becoming a Hawkeye.”
Hickman, now in his junior year, entered the 2015 campaign as a full-time pitcher for the first time in his collegiate career. In a rejuvenated program under UI head coach Rick Heller, the right-hander’s 96 mph fast ball continues to grasp the attention of scouts across the country.
Yet, the 2012 Chicago Cubs’ 20th-round draft selection remains focused on being a Hawkeye.
After all, what’s not to enjoy about playing in front of nearly sellout crowds at Duane Banks Field this season?
“The amount of fan support we’ve received this year is incredible,” said Hickman. “I remember coming into the program my freshman year when we’d have 100 fans coming out to support us every week. And now, stepping onto the mound and looking at 2,000 plus fans -- it’s an incredible feeling and it pushes us on and off the field to keep working hard. We want to move the program forward and continue to put Iowa on the map and keep the fans in Iowa City happy.
“You can feel the energy from our supporters on the field each and every day. They’re behind us the entire time and we can hear them cheering throughout the game. It makes a true difference and gives us an edge of confidence when we’re at home.”
Hickman credits part of this new energy around the park to the help from the Iowa City community and donors for making the Banks Field renovations possible.
“The support from the donors these past few years has been incredible,” said Hickman, the 2014-15 recipient of the Mike Boddicker Baseball Scholarship. “It’s not only helping this team in the now, but also down the road with recruiting in the long term. It’s remarkable how much has changed throughout our program and all the credit goes to the donors, coach Heller, and the support from the community.
“To all the donors, thank you. Your generosity has helped take Iowa baseball to another level. With your continued support, Hawkeye baseball will continue landing big-time recruits and continue rising. Without your help, we wouldn’t be where we are today, and we owe all of you a big thank you.”
Hickman’s focus remains on the present, but he acknowledges his dreams of a career at the next level. When that day comes, he’s going to miss his time as a Hawkeye.
“I’m going to miss living in Iowa City and being a Hawkeye,” said Hickman. “It’ll be tough leaving this community, being around the fans, and playing ball with my brothers every day.”