FAYETTEVILLE – The Arkansas baseball team held its annual media day on Monday afternoon at Baum Stadium. Head coach Dave Van Horn and selected players met with the media to discuss the upcoming season. Quotes from Coach Van Horn’s press conference, along with select player quotes, are below.
Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn
On how practice has gone so far…"Practice has been hit and miss with the weather. We finally got to get on the baseball field yesterday. We were out there three and a half, four hours and before we finished up the snow was pretty much off the outfield and we got to use our outfielders out there. A lot of indoor work, a lot of repetition, a lot of hitting inside and pitching inside but I’m sure it is the same for most of the teams we play early so we have no excuses. We’ll just hook it up on Friday and play."
On if he approaches the first game differently due to the lack of practicing outdoors…"I don’t think so. We are going to try to make up for it this week. I told the team the other day if we weren’t going to have such good weather this week it would have been kind of depressing knowing that we were maybe going to get outside for game day. With the good weather and the forecast, the mood has been great. They were really upbeat. Yesterday was an outstanding workout. We’ll have another good one today and hopefully tomorrow through Thursday. We will be able to get a good game feel. We have five or six position players who are back that are real familiar with the way things go on game day. Obviously a couple position players and pitchers, things will be new for them, but for the most part it should be smooth."
On opening the season with a long homestand…"I think we play 11 in a row at home and I think 16 ball games approximately before we head to Auburn. We need to be ready for Auburn and I’ve already told them that. Obviously we need to win as many as we can and we’re going to do everything we can to win them. You’re always looking down the road and you’re looking at having the chance to play in a regional or postseason. You’re going to have a lot of ups and downs, especially in baseball with as many games as we play, so if we could knock off a bunch of wins early it would be big for our confidence. Really what we need to do though is get our pitching staff lined out and a batting order finalized a little bit more. Obviously I know who is going to be hitting in the top of the order but the bullpen is something that I am going to need to organize for 16 games."
On Delaware State…"They’re in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. They have everyone back on their roster. I don’t think they lost one player. They didn’t have a very good year last year and they’d be the first one to tell you that. They won 13 or 14 games and lost 30, 35 games. It’s a tough place to play up there. It’s awfully cold. These three games for us are obviously about getting better. We need to win all three games, but we need to get better and get ready for Utah next weekend."
On having returning players at catcher, in the middle infield and in center field…"It always makes it easier when you have your middle infielders back, your starting catcher and then Collin Kuhn has experience at center. (Brett) Eibner played there the last three years about 90 percent of the time but, when he pitched, Collin played center so we have some experience through the middle. The key is having an experienced catcher back with five or six freshmen who are going to pitch. An experienced catcher is vital for our program this year."
On the expanded TV package…"I think it’s great. You start with ESPN. They’ve really stepped it up for college baseball and really stepped it up for the SEC. Once the final four is complete, they are going to start putting a lot of baseball on, especially our league on the Thursday night SEC game. I think is going to draw a lot of attention to our league and to our teams nationally because Thursday night is kind of a slow night at that time of the year, I would think, with no basketball. I think there are going to be a lot of eyes across the country watching college baseball on Thursday nights."
On how the TV exposure helps to sell the Arkansas baseball program…"I think our ballpark is beautiful in person, but I think it looks pretty good on T.V. as well. I think that kids and their parents are going to be watching a game and sophomores in high school, you know recruiting gets earlier and earlier whether we like it or not, and anytime we can get something visual in front of them at 15 or 16 years old it gives you a shot so when you have the chance to send a letter or make a call after the July 1 date of their junior year and they say I saw you on T.V. and you guys have been to Omaha or Super Regionals, it definitely helps."
#12 Bo Bigham, INF
On what freshmen will contribute this season…"All of them are going to have to. There’s not one in particular. They are all going to have to perform and contribute for us to go anywhere and they know that. They know that they have the weight on their shoulders but they are old enough and mature enough so they can handle it."
On if he feels any pressure as a returning player on a team with a lot of newcomers…"Not really. We have to take a lot of responsibility knowing that we are the leaders on the team and we’ve been through it. We just have to bring them along and show them the ropes and show them how to take care of business."
On if this is a rebuilding year…"Some people have written us off, but we know it’s not going to be a rebuilding year because we have the talent that can make it all the way and we know that and are going to take advantage of that. We’re going to perform and we are going to take care of business."
On the strengths of this year’s team…"Athleticism is the main one. We are more athletic as a team. We can run and hit. It’s just going to be a different team."
#25 Collin Kuhn, OF
On if he has changed his approach at the plate due to the new bats…"Not really. I try to stay the same, but try to stay on top of the ball a little more. Pop-ups are not going to go out of the park so if you can keep the ball on the ground and hit line-drives, you will be successful."
On playing more small ball this season…"It is definitely a thinking game. It is a different aspect that we, in the last few years here, haven’t really gotten in to. We haven’t really bunted as much as we probably will this year."
On deciding to not sign with a professional team and come back to Arkansas…"I just felt like it was best for me to come back for one more year and be an Arkansas Razorback. I really want to get back to Omaha and go from there."
On opening the 2011 season this weekend…"I’m excited. I can’t wait. I think that is the way the whole clubhouse feels. Everyone is ready to get it going."
#27 James McCann, C
On the strengths and weaknesses of the pitching staff…"Strengths, we have just as much talent as anybody, I believe. Where we need to improve is with experience. There’s not much else that can match experience and the sooner they get out there and feel the fire, the better they will be."
On his take of the new bats…"Compared to last year, it is a little bit different. It is just like wood but all of us want to go on to play at the next level and this bat is going to prepare us to do that."
On his expectations for the season…"I plan to go to Omaha. The season won’t be successful unless we go to Omaha. People say we are rebuilding and we will not be as good as we have been in the past, but I truly believe we have the opportunity to go to Omaha and compete in the national championship."
On handling such a young pitching staff…"It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a process, that’s for sure, but that is what the game is all about. That is what I love doing. I know that we have some really talented guys and it is going to be fun to see the way that they grow and mature."
On any changes to the team dynamic this season…"It is just a different type of team chemistry. Last year, we had been around each other so much. With everyone, we knew what we had, we knew what we were getting into. For this year there’s a lot more teaching going on. Last year it was just a matter of keeping everyone healthy. This year it’s more teaching and getting things done the right way. The chemistry, I wouldn’t say it’s better or worse, it is just different."