The call was made on New Year’s Eve.
Karson Grout, a sophomore at Mid-Prairie, verbally committed to the University of Iowa baseball program.
A kid’s dream rang true.
What a way to start the new year.
“I’ve always had in my mind, I want to go to the Hawkeyes,” said Grout, who struck out 31 in 24 innings pitched last summer for the Golden Hawks. “I also just wanted to play baseball anywhere on the college level, but I’ve always wanted to be a Hawkeye.”
The Hawkeyes have a good one. And Hawkeyes head coach Rick Heller undoubtedly knows it.
Grout, who has been working out at Diamond Dreams Sports Academy in North Liberty, is already reaching 92 mph with his fastball and 97 mph in throwing from a running start. And he is just 16 years old.
“I’m hoping to be up at 96, 97. Maybe touching 98 would be pretty sweet by the time I’m a [high school] senior,” he said. “Hopefully that leads to me getting drafted.”
By the Red Sox, of course.
OK, that’s my hope, wink, wink.
Will Cavanagh, a Golden Hawk teammate of Grout, knows exactly how hard that fastball is. Can he hit it in practice?
“Yeah. Oh, yeah,” said Cavanagh, laughing. “Noooo.”
“I wish I could hit him, but I don’t think I can,” Cavanagh said.
It is now a joke between the two college-headed athletes. Cavanagh, a senior, is headed to Central College in Pella, Iowa, to play football.
Grout, who started five games for Mid-Prairie’s River Valley South Conference championship team last summer, will likely be the Golden Hawks ace starter the next three years. Aidan Rath, whose college career begins next month at Kirkwood Community College, was the Golden Hawks’ top pitcher and hitter in his senior season last summer, striking out 63 while winning five games and hitting .494 with 12 home runs.
Grout became more dominant as the 2021 season went on.
“He’s very dominant,” Cavanagh said. “When he’s locked in, which he normally is, he’s almost unhittable. For me, when I’m in the outfield, it’s definitely a relief knowing that we’ve got Karson on the mound.”
But that’s not all.
Pitching isn’t the only thing Grout has been working on during the offseason. He wants to be a strong hitter as well, which is why Iowa’s coaching staff was probably so sold on him as a recruit. He performed well in the 2021 Perfect Game National Showcase and was forecast as the state’s No. 4 prospect in the Class of 2024. He has played in the infield and outfield, in addition to pitching.
Grout had 41 hits last summer for the Golden Hawks in his freshman season, trailing Rath by just one hit. He started all 27 games, led the Golden Hawks in at-bats (95) and had a .500 on-base percentage.
Now, for the next three years, Grout won’t have to worry about where those numbers will lead him. He’ll be a promised Hawkeye, although Grout can’t take an official visit to Iowa, per NCAA rules, until next fall and he is probably almost two years away from signing a national letter-of-intent. Participating in baseball camps at Iowa is fine.
“It’s a relief because now I know I don’t have to go out and try to impress everybody,” he said. “Now I know who my team is. Makes it exciting.”
The Hawkeyes signed seven high school seniors for its 2022 recruiting class, including pitcher Cade Obermueller and infielder Gable Mitchell of Iowa City High. Heller, a native of Iowa who has coached at Iowa since 2014, led the Hawkeyes to a school-record 26 Big Ten wins in 2021 and to the Big Ten championship in 2017.
“I really like their baseball program. I’ve seen a lot of good things about them,” Grout said. “And I like that it’s close to home. I also really like the coach. I connect with him really well. Coach Heller is a great guy, and the rest of the coaching staff are great guys.”
Oh, yes, this is one proud Golden Hawk just waiting to become a Hawkeye.
It could be quite the story.
News columnist Paul Bowker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @bowkerpaul.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here