IOWA CITY, Ia. — A late gust of recruiting wind left Brett McCleary with a choice. In the end, City High’s slugging catcher couldn’t pass up a dream.
McCleary committed to the hometown Hawkeyes Thursday as a preferred walk-on after the Iowa coaching staff revved up the interest in recent weeks.
The Little Hawk senior had planned to head to Des Moines Area Community College and had some late interest from Bowling Green as well, but the Hawkeyes swooped in late after a catching spot opened in this year’s recruiting class, McCleary said.
“It came around probably about a week ago,” he added. “I contacted them my junior year because that’s kind of where I’ve always wanted to end up. They had a catcher spot open up, so we started talking a little more, And they came and watched me and figured things out, and as soon as they gave me the opportunity, I announced I’d be a Hawk.
“It all kind of happened really fast. The week or so that I had to kind of sit back and take it all in and what I wanted with my future and what I wanted to do, there were some tough decisions made. I slept on it for a day or two and just woke up and was like, ‘You know what? I’ve wanted this opportunity my whole life, and it’s right in front of me. So I’m going to jump on it.’”
After an up-and-down start to his prep career, McCleary has been a driving force behind City’s resurgence in 2017.
Through 25 games, he’s hitting .370 with five homers, seven doubles and 31 RBIs, while also thriving on the mound as a dominant right-hander. McCleary is 3-1 with a 0.76 ERA over 27 2/3 innings, having yielded just three earned runs with 43 strikeouts.
The Little Hawks are ranked No. 5 in the latest Class 4A poll and currently sit at 19-6 with 14 games remaining on the regular-season schedule. Just five more victories would give the Little Hawks their highest win total since 2012.
“I’ve had kind of a long four years just figuring things out,” McCleary said, “but I stuck by the process and believed in the process. It’s paying off now.
Rising Iowa senior Tyler Cropley will be the Hawkeyes’ starting catcher in 2018 unless something drastic changes, but things appear more wide open after that. Austin Guzzo, the only other catcher listed on Iowa's roster, will graduate after the 2018 season as well.
Iowa could certainly add a catcher down the road, but McCleary is ready to battle regardless.
“One of the things is I’ve never heard anything bad about Iowa’s staff and what they do," he said. “I’ve only heard positive things, and that’s something I love. They’re high-character guys, and that’s something you can’t take for granted.
“It’s really exciting. It’s kind of something I’ve always dreamed about so excited to be a Hawk and get going.”
Dargan Southard covers preps, recruiting, Iowa and UNI athletics for the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Des Moines Register and HawkCentral.com. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.