Iowa Hawkeyes baseball team takes off for Taiwan, World University Games

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IOWA CITY — He’s looking forward to a great experience. He was not looking forward to the travel necessary to have that great experience.

“The plane ride’s definitely making me nervous,” smiled Zach Daniels. “I already get nervous on short flights.”

It wasn’t a short flight Daniels and the Iowa Hawkeyes baseball team were making Tuesday evening. They were on their way to Taipei, Taiwan, to take part in the World University Games.

Iowa will represent the United States at the Games, one of eight nations in the baseball competition. The others are France, Chinese Taipei, Russia, Japan, South Korea, Czech Republic and Mexico.

The 29th World University Games run Friday to August 30.

“I’m interested to see how things are going to go,” said Daniels, a junior pitcher from Cedar Rapids Kennedy. “Obviously this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s exciting, but you just don’t know what to expect, really. Don’t know what the competition is going to be like. Obviously (teams) are going to be talented. It’s just going to be a really cool experience.”

Iowa represented the U.S. at the recent National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan., and will take 22 players to Taiwan. It was offered a spot in the World University Games last August by the United States International University Sports Federation.

Purdue’s men’s basketball team and Maryland’s women’s team also will participate.

“It was intriguing to me, was something I thought about personally because a chance to represent the USA on a big stage doesn’t come around very often,” said Iowa Coach Rick Heller. “To have our school, our players have the opportunity for this experience, I thought it would be fantastic if we could make it work out.”

Heller said another positive is the head start the Hawkeyes will get on the 2018 season. Incoming recruits are part of the Games team, similar to last year when Iowa took a trip to the Dominican Republic.

“You get familiarized with your teammates and everything,” Daniels said. “You get to train earlier with them all. It grows the program. People see what we’re doing. It’s good for recruiting.”

“We’ve got a huge head start on what a normal fall would be,” Heller said. “Number one, I look at this as a great life experience for our players. I think they’ll all grow years on this trip. I know it’s going to help this core group of players bond and become better teammates and become closer, a lot like we did last year with our Dominican trip. We know it’s going to pay big dividends when we start our season in February.”

Here is Iowa's schedule:

All times Central

Sunday: vs. Mexico, 5:30 a.m.

Tuesday: vs. Russia, 5:30 a.m.

Wednesday: vs. Japan, 9:30 p.m.

The "Super Round" is Aug. 25-26, semifinals Aug. 27-28 and medal games Aug. 29.

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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