Mackey’s wide world of sports

Chris Steele
Zach Mackey finished his first season of calling play-by-play for the Iowa Hawkeyes’ baseball team. Mackey made the STAA list for broadcasters for the third consecutive season during his junior year.

Zach Mackey’s first season being the full-time voice of the Iowa Hawkeyes’ baseball team gave him more than he ever could have expected.

A Geneseo grad, Mackey was able to give life to an underdog story, a prolific power hitter, the first Big Ten tournament title in program history, and he’s following it up with a trip to Taiwan.

“It was a season that had so many moments,” Mackey said. “We got to a NCAA regional which doesn’t happen very often. We won the Big Ten tournament and are the first Iowa team to win an outright conference tournament since 2011 when track did it, and we had the NCAA home run leader.”

A senior-to-be at the University of Iowa, it was hard for Mackey to top that feeling that comes from being Big Ten Champions.

He remembers getting on the team bus and Iowa Coach Rick Heller telling the players just how rare moments like these can be.

“It was a really cool experience,” Mackey said. “Everyone was on cloud nine. The whole goal this season was to get to play in June and that’s what ended up happening.”

Iowa was the No. 5 seed in the conference tournament, but the Hawkeyes turned the title game into a victory lap by defeating Northwestern 13-4 in Bloomington, Ind., on May 28.

With school history being made, Mackey and his broadcast partner Steve Duncan let the moment speak for itself.

“There’s no reason to get artsy,” Mackey said. “If it’s happening every year, people want to hear something different.

“I just tried to call it as it was. They are Big 10 Champions, and they are going to the NCAA tournament.”

While some people might have missed Iowa’s rise from early-season struggles to a Big 10 title, nearly everyone around college baseball was paying attention to Hawkeyes’ slugger Jake Adams who was the NCAA home run leader with 29 bombs, last season.

Mackey compared Adams’ power to 2013 College Player of the year and reigning National League MVP, Kris Bryant.

“I had to get good at home run calls,” Mackey said. “You could just kind of tell there was something special about it. I think we got a lot of joy and excitement out of it.”

Which meant with the flick of a bat any game could change in an instant.

“You had to be on your toes,” Mackey said. “Home run calls can sneak up on you. All of a sudden, ‘It’s drifting back, drifting back and it’s out of here.’ And I would feel like I didn’t do that justice, so it was a situation where I always wanted to be ready because the ball can leave the ballpark at any time.”

In 2016, Mackey earned All-American status with the Sportscasters Talent Agency of America list.

He made the STAA list for the third consecutive season during his junior year after being an honorable mention as a freshman.

Having experienced the grind of a 60 game schedule, Mackey’s biggest focus was to bring the same energy he felt during a big conference game to the broadcast in games against teams that weren’t on everyone’s radar.

“You never know who is listening,” Mackey said. “You want to make sure you are bringing it every game and giving it your best.”

Mackey’s next big adventure will be broadcasting the Hawkeyes’ baseball games as they compete in the World University Games, in Taipei, Taiwan.

In August, Mackey will make his first trip outside the country for the International University Sports Federation event for college-age students which is considered to be a mini-Olympics.

Iowa will be the second college team to represent the United States in baseball, and Mackey will have to have a pronunciation guide handy when the Hawkeyes will compete in pool play against teams from Japan and Russia.

The US teams are made up of several Big Ten teams with Purdue men’s basketball and Maryland women’s basketball making the trip as well.

“It’s a very cool thing that Coach Heller is able to do this,” Mackey said. “It gets some national attention, and he’s always looking to promote the program any way he can.

“I think that’s one of the main reasons he’s invested in radio and TV coverage. He knows the more radio stations we get throughout the state the more it can be used for recruiting. It will be nice to get some national attention for the program, and myself too.”