Iowa's strikeout pitching king Allen Rath comes home to Highland

By Paul D. Bowker
Posted 6/15/24


The dark sunglasses almost hide the baseball passion of a 56-year-old man who has come home to Highland High School this summer.

But the passion is clearly there.

And …

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Iowa's strikeout pitching king Allen Rath comes home to Highland



The dark sunglasses almost hide the baseball passion of a 56-year-old man who has come home to Highland High School this summer.

But the passion is clearly there.

And it’s deep.

Allen Rath was a baseball gem nearly 40 years ago when he was a student at Highland High School, possessing a monster pitching arm that would send scouts running for radar guns not so easy to find back then. He wound up at the University of Iowa, where he still holds two school records. He was drafted not once, but twice, by Major League Baseball teams.

Rath recalls the day when a scout in the Iowa City area was dispatched down to Riverside to get a first-hand look at him.

Jody Fink, Highland’s current athletics director, remembers Rath striking out 17 in a high school tournament game against Fink’s hometown school, Kee High School, when Fink was still in junior high.

Walk down a hallway inside Highland High School toward the school gym and you’ll still see Rath’s name plastered onto the wall where the school’s all-time baseball record holders are listed.

And now, he’s the man behind the shades on a baseball field that is not far away from that wall of fame, coaching the Huskies and wearing the colors he wore so long ago.

Turns out, he never really strayed too far.

“I’m from here,” Rath said. “I went here. You could say, ‘Once a Huskie, always a Huskie.’”

“It’s nice to have somebody come back to their alma mater and want to sit there and coach,” Fink said.

But there isn’t much sitting. When Colten Sypherd, a junior, pitched against Hillcrest Academy in a game last week at Highland, Rath stood at the front of the dugout, watching every pitch, directing every move. When the Huskies are at bat, Rath stands in the third-base coaching box, encouraging batters, directing baserunners and flashing signs. When the Huskies end a defensive inning, Rath pops to the front of the dugout, fist bumping players as they head off the field and into the dugout.

He's home.

“I love baseball,” he said. “I just like watching the guys. I’ve still got a passion for it. Everything that baseball’s given me, like travel.”

A bad shoulder injury interrupted that travel.

Drafted by the Cincinnati Reds out of high school in the 1986 MLB June Amateur Draft, Rath chose to go to the University of Iowa instead of turning pro. He won 25 games and struck out 246 batters from 1987 to 1990 for the Hawkeyes despite fighting off an injury. Both those records still stand, although two other Hawkeyes equaled those 25 wins, including his teammate, John DeJarld. The 1990 team won a Big Ten championship.

Raft was drafted again, this time by the California Angels in the 47th round of the 1989 MLB draft. It was one of those “what if” draft choices.

After taking a year and a half off and rehabbing through his shoulder injury, a scout from the Colorado Rockies arranged for a quick tryout in Centerville, Iowa. A “one time deal,” Rath said.

His velocity had recovered to 90 mph, but things didn’t go well that day.

“I threw horrible and that was it,” Rath said. “So I hung up the cleats that night.”

But baseball wasn’t done. Rath, who lives in Kalona, started the Nitro youth baseball program that has fed Mid-Prairie’s baseball teams, and other schools, over the years. He helped coach Mid-Prairie, in addition to his son, Aidan, a 2021 Golden Hawk graduate who was one of the top home run hitters in the state and this year was a pitcher at Eastern Kentucky University as a redshirt sophomore following two years at Kirkwood Community College. His other two children are Alex, who was a softball player at Iowa, and Addison.

Rath’s day job is as a sales manager and sales specialist for medical devices, but he was a baseball assistant at Cedar Rapids Washington when the head coaching position at Highland popped up.

He always remained a Huskie.

“Even though my kids went to Mid-Prairie, I still watched,” he said. “I kept up with the scores.”

So, there was no surprise when Rath lined up Mid-Prairie for the Huskies’ opening game of the season in May. It had been nine years since the schools played. Mid-Prairie, one of the state’s top-ranked teams in Class 2A, handed out a 16-1 lesson that day. It’s part of the march toward something better in Huskie Country.

They won their first four Southeast Iowa Super Conference games this season before falling in back-to-back games against Winfield-Mt. Union and Hillcrest last week. Monday, they defeated Danville, and a day after that, the Huskies drilled Lone Tree by 12 runs. Beginning next Monday, they’ll play four games in four nights.

“I’m hoping to instill some pride in them,” said Rath, who was joined this year by assistant coaches Jarrod Longbine and Clint Colbert. “They don’t have that, ‘I wanna win, I wanna play.’ So I’m trying to get that and then hopefully that carries over into other sports, as well.”

The path is clear.

News columnist Paul Bowker can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @bowkerpaul

Allen Rath, University of Iowa, Highland Huskies, MLB, Mid-Prairie