State of the Hogs: Snow Balls

There was some fun in the snow Saturday when the Hogs finally got out of the batting cages.

After being "caged" for most of the previous two weeks, the Arkansas baseball team took out some frustration with a little work in the snow on Saturday.

"We got the whole team out there and got the tarp up Saturday morning," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "Then we practiced for about 3 and a half, four hours. By the end of the practice, the outfield was clear, too, and we got out there."

Arkansas players did more than pull up the tarp. They rolled massive snow balls to get the weight off the tarp.

"I think some of the guys were complaining about it being pretty cold when we got started, but that changed to some real fun," said James McCann, junior catcher and a team captain. "We really had some fun. There were a few snow balls being thrown, but it wasn't the kind that packs down and makes it easy to throw."

Outfielder Collin Kuhn, native of Beaver Falls, Wis., showed his experience in the snow. He quickly got a big snow ball rolling across the tarp. By the time he and several teammates were done, it had grown to six feet in diameter.

"I've done that before," he smiled Monday at the team's media day. "I do know how to do that. Some of the California guys were standing around and watching, but they got into it before we were done. They just didn't have any experience in doing things like that where they grew up. I know snow."

Freshman pitcher Ryne Stanek said there were actually a few snow balls tossed, too. But he said he didn't throw any.

"I didn't hit anybody," he said. "Really, that stuff you couldn't throw. It just fell apart. But that snowball that Kuhn made, it was massive. I don't know, maybe 400 pounds. He knew what he was doing."

Kuhn said it was so big that equipment was finally needed to lift it off the field.

"When you have to call in for mechanical help to get it moved, it's pretty big," he said. "I think we had four guys rolling it for awhile and then we just gave up."

Van Horn said normally it's easier to get snow off of a field if you don't have a tarp down.

"If it's a little snow, tarp is better," he said. "You can get the tarp up and the field is dry. But you don't want to put a tarp down for a heavy snow. We thought it was going to be three inches, not over 20. So that was a mistake."

Hitting coach Todd Butler said it was good to get outside. The hitters were going stir crazy in the batting cages.

"It was getting to the point that we'd done about all we could in the cages and guys were getting frustrated with me because we'd done all the drills we could do," Butler said. "We just needed to get outside. We've done everything. We've probably worked on bunting in the cage as much as you can. We've bunted a lot."

The extra bunt drills are needed because of the modified bats that will probably reduce the power numbers this season. However, Butler and Kuhn said a new batch of bats arrived in January that are not so bad.

"The ones they gave us in the fall were horrible," Kuhn said. "These latest versions are a little better. I still don't think I need to be swinging for home runs with these, but they aren't just horrible."

McCann, who hit a home run in a scrimmage Sunday, agreed that the latest modifications are an improvement.

"They aren't like the ones we had last year, but not so bad as the ones in the fall," McCann said. "You can hit home runs with these. I hear that they are going to send another batch in another month."

Butler said, "Yes, around the start of the conference season, they are going to get us some that probably will be a little better than these. But still, I don't think you'll see the numbers like we did last year."

Indeed, the Hogs broke the school record for home runs last year.

Pitching coach Dave Jorn said the young pitching staff is doing well. He likes freshmen Brandon Moore, Ryne Stanek and Barrett Astin. Moore has been a standout so far.

"Moore can pitch," Jorn said. "He's shown real pitchability. So far so good.

"I like this bunch. They have talent. Now we are going to see if they can take it from the bullpen to games. Things can change when you get out of the comfort of the bullpen and have hitters up there. But they look like they have some real ability."

The season opener is Friday against Delaware State. The weekend series is 3 p.m. Friday, with 1 p.m. starts Saturday and Sunday.

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