The All-Star Break is over and teams in the American and National League are headed back to work for the final two and half months of the season, but we're not entirely sure why. Sure, the Astros and Dodgers are bulldozing terrormonsters, leveling all opposition in their respective paths -- but we already know who's headed to the World Series: the Iowa Hawkeyes. No, really.
— Iowa Baseball (@UIBaseball) July 11, 2017
It's all right there: "Iowa (that's us!) to Compete in NBC World Series." Lock it down, folks. Oh, okay, so there is a catch, it turns out. That NBC? It stands for National Baseball Congress, "an organization of 17 amateur and semi-professional baseball leagues operating in the United States and Canada," per Wikipedia. The Iowa release describes the NBC World Series as "the largest and oldest continuous sporting event in the United States," which may or may not be accurate (the NBC World Series dates back to 1935, which is a long time ago, but the Kentucky Derby, to name one event, can trace its history back to 1875) but is definitely a good burn on the other World Series, which was famously canceled in 1994 due to the strike by the MLB Players Association.
Iowa is playing in the NBC World Series because they're also serving as the USA National Team for the World University Games; their participation in the NBC World Series will take place from July 29-August 6 and should serve as quality preparation for the World University Games (which begins August 20th). Iowa (aka the USA National Team) will play three games in group play, on July 30, August 1, and August 3. If they are able to advance out of group play, they'll play additional games on August 4-5 and a possible National Championship game on August 6.
Their opponents during that opening group stage are still TBD, but they could face some quality opposition if they advance beyond the group stage. The Santa Barbara Foresters and Seattle Studs (no, really) have won the last six titles at the NBC World Series, with the Foresters taking four and the Studs taking two. Both teams appear to be essentially college all-star teams, featuring players from multiple colleges (as you can see from the Foresters' roster). And then there's the Kansas Stars, another team that Iowa could play if they get past the group stage; the Stars are a who's who of former Major Leaguers, including Roy Halladay, Tim Hudson, Joe Nathan, Roy Oswalt, Jake Peavy, Ben Sheets, Kenny Rogers, Chipper Jones, Adam LaRoche, Dan Uggla, Jonny Gomes, Brandon Inge, and Brad Penny. (The full roster is available here.) Holy crap. That's a whole bunch of guys who are either in the Hall of Fame (or will be eventually) or who are at least in the Hall of Very Good. On the other hand, they're also very pretty darn old at this point.
As with the team at the World University Games, this will be an Iowa team sans two of their best hitters from the 2017 Big Ten Tournament Champion team, as Jake Adams and Mason McCoy are now plying their trade in the minor leagues. But it will still be a great opportunity for the players who remain, as well as a chance to get a glimpse on what the Iowa team might look like in 2018. (Pitching figures to be the biggest question mark, as two of last year's top starters, Ryan Erickson and Nick Gallagher, are also making their way in the minors, while another top starting option, C.J. Eldred, is still rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.)
Best of luck in the World Series (OK, OK -- the other World Series), Hawkeyes!