Photo by Tyler Devine
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY, Iowa – After losing in the Iowa state baseball finals during their senior year, West High graduates Izaya Fullard and Connor McCaffery didn’t think they would ever play baseball together again.
McCaffery, who is the son of Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery, went on to Iowa to pull double duty playing for his father and joining the baseball team under head coach Rick Heller.
Fullard went on to Kirkwood Community College, where he led the country in hits at a .470 clip.
Little did the two know that they would be reunited after Fullard was offered a spot on the Iowa baseball roster last May.
“It’s great,” Fullard said. “He’s one of my best friends. I’ve played sports with him, basketball and baseball, I think since I was in seventh grade, throwing partners with him all throughout high school.
“My senior year, when we lost at state it was tough because I thought I’d never play with him again. But when I committed here he was the first one to congratulate me, he was always excited for me. It’s going to be great.”
Fullard also has a connection to the Iowa basketball team. His father, Ken, played basketball there from 1983-85.
Playing for the Hawkeyes with longtime friends is a dream come true for Fullard.
“Growing up I’ve always been a Hawkeye fan,” Fullard said. “Obviously, my dad played here so I mean I kind of just always wanted to come here, I’ve known that from a very young age. I didn’t have the opportunity in high school but when coach Heller gave me the opportunity I was really excited.”
Connor McCaffery and Fullard now have joined forces with former high school rival and City High graduate Brett McCleary.
McCleary is a sophomore catcher, while Fullard, a sophomore, said he will play some designated hitter, and has been working at first, second and third base.
Connor McCaffery, a redshirt freshman, said he has been working at right field and first base during workouts.
McCaffery and Fullard are looking to make their Hawkeye debuts this season, while McCleary has nine starts under his belt.
Although they were once crosstown rivals, the three have always been close off the field.
“It’s a lot of fun,” McCleary said. “In high school, I remember there would be times where Connor and Izaya would text me and be like ‘Hey, can you come come throw to me, we need to get at bats’, whatever it may be.
“It was fun to have that kind of friendly rivalry just because I love those guys off the field. But now being here it’s even better because all three of us have that competitiveness and that edge to us that really drives us and I like being in the black and gold with them.”
Playing in the black and gold has brought the three together, but one thing certainly sets them apart.
Fullard and McCleary must only focus on baseball and school, but McCaffery also has the responsibility of being the backup point guard for a basketball team in the midst of a resurgence.
McCaffery said the toughest part about adjusting to his busy schedule is not switching between two sports, but managing his time between baseball, basketball and school.
“Going from having a (basketball game) Friday night, going and practicing baseball here and then practicing baseball Sunday morning and then going and practicing basketball on Monday morning (is tough),” Connor McCaffery said.
“(Fran McCaffery) plans practice as the guys just had two days off but I did baseball so I didn’t really have two days off, so I’m tired. I’ve just got to be smarter about how I eat, sleep, just take care of my business. I’ve got to be mature about everything and try to do that. Coach Heller, he’s been good too, he’s not trying to kill me when I’m here either.”
Connor McCaffery: .385 batting average, six home runs and 49 runs batted in. 6-1 record on the mound with a 1.75 earned run average in 32 innings. First-team all-state.
Izaya Fullard: .421 batting average, 11 home runs and 60 runs batted in. First team all-state.
Brett McCleary: .331 batting average, six home runs and 47 runs batted in. 5-3 record on the mound with a 1.33 earned run average in 47 1/3 innings.