CEDAR RAPIDS – Bill Herkelman can be considered a cornerstone of the Cedar Rapids Kennedy baseball program.
He was a member of the Cougars’ original coaching staff in 1967 and has helped lead the program for all but 10 years ever since the school opened its doors.
So, the man affectionately known as “Herk” received a fitting honor during a ceremony, revealing his name on the largest stone centered in the new backstop wall and a sign that identifies Cougars’ diamond as Herkelman Field.
The longtime coach was joined by a number of past and present players and was part of four generations of family, including his 99-yeard-old father, Buster, near home plate between Kennedy’s double-header sweep of Class 4A second-ranked Iowa City West.
“It’s something that is overwhelming,” said Herkelman, who was surprised until friend and West head coach Charlie Stumpff, informed him out the festivities. “I don’t know if there are words for it or not, but it’s really nice.”
Herkelman is one of only three Kennedy head coaches in about 46 seasons, boasting winning records in all but four seasons. He was an assistant when Kennedy played games at Noelridge Park and before construction of the field that bears his name.
He was the Cougars’ head coach from 1977-92, stepping away for 10 years and rejoining Hoyer’s staff. As head coach, Herkelman won more than 300 games, leading Kennedy to two state tournaments, including a top-four finish in 1983.
“He brings integrity to the program,” Kennedy Coach Bret Hoyer said. “You have a straight shooter that is going to come to work every day and give terrific effort in a first-class manner. He’s going to be respectful of everybody involved and the game.”
Hoyer said he didn’t want to approach Herkelman about the plans, knowing that he would decline to avoid drawing attention from the players and the game of baseball. He let Herkelman’s wife, Kristine, handle him. Herkelman even mentioned between games that he didn’t want to detract from and overshadow two great teams playing Monday night.
“He doesn’t enjoy this kind of attention,” Hoyer said. “He is what Kennedy baseball is all about. It’s about the kids and the kids who played before and in the future, trying to do things the right way.”
Herkelman is an Eastern Iowa native, who played baseball in high school and followed baseball closely as a basketball player at Iowa State Teachers College, which is now University of Northern Iowa. He made a major impact as a baseball coach, extending his influence outside the foul lines.
Matt Novak, who was a former player for Herkelman and part of the committee that proposed the helped the measure get approved by the school district, said Herkelman was a good of a man as a coach.
“More importantly, he’s just a leader of men,” Novak said. “I know it’s cliché but he loves baseball and baseball is a part of life. The same lessons you learn on the field that you take off the field. We have a lot of alumni successful off the field and a lot of it goes back to what we learned from Coach Herkelman.”
The stone backstop and renovations was a $90,000 project. The baseball parent support group contributed a big chunk of the money, receiving funds from the Kennedy Booster Club and the school district.
“I’ve been reluctant to approach him with the subject because I was afraid he’d get upset and walk away,” Hoyer said with a laugh. “He doesn’t enjoy the attention. He is what Kennedy baseball is all about. It’s about the kids and the kids who played before and in the future, trying to do things the right way.”
Herkelman displayed his fun-loving sense of humor, chuckling while saying he didn’t recognize some of the old players because they gained too much weight and addressing how much longer he will coach.
“I don’t know,” Herkelman said. “My dad is 99 and I’m only 76.”
The Cougars (5-0) produced a stellar performance that complemented the night perfectly.
Sammy Lizarraga and Zach Daniels combined to shutout the Trojans’ potent offense for 14 straight innings. They were affective, stifling hitters and ending rallies.
“Sammy really worked hard last week to be more consistent with his location,” Hoyer said. “He located well tonight and to shut out West is amazing. Zach Daniels continued to build on what he did last week against Xavier. He hit his spots.”
Daniels drove in the lone run in the first inning, chasing Miles Moa home in the third. Moa drove in the only run of the nightcap on a run scoring groundout. The wins will help the Cougars move forward.
“It’s a huge shot of confidence,” Hoyer said. “It’s a huge shot in the arm.”
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