Coaches in awe of new facility

As summer sets in, a new $9.6 million baseball/track facility has Razorbacks coaches already looking forward to next season.

Arkansas baseball coaches have the key to their long-awaited indoor practice facility.

The $9.6 million building was recently completed and will be in use when the Razorbacks reconvene for fall practice in August. With that new building smell filling the air, assistant coach Tony Vitello was still in awe Monday.

"It's incredible and 'Wow' is the first thing literally everyone says before they can even get all the way around the corner over there when we show it to people," Vitello said. "We were fortunate enough to do that a lot this weekend with a big tournament here, so it's made an impact already."

Vitello said one player has already committed to Arkansas primarily because of the practice facility, which allows players to hit against live pitching and work on infield defense indoors. The building will come in handy during those cold winter days in the preseason, but Vitello said it won't be utilized only during inclement weather.

"If anything it's kind of stirring some debate and almost starting some fights up in the office, how many different ideas can we come up with," Vitello said. "By no means will this be a cold-weather facility, starting right off the bat in September. Regardless of what the temperature is, we're going to have guys in here getting things done."

What exactly can be done?

"You name it," Vitello said. "Bunt defense. Bunting. You can literally take live B.P. And in the winter our pitchers won't skip a beat, so we won't fall behind LSU or Florida if we've got cold weather out here, or some ice and our guys can't throw. As you all know, in kind of the dead-ball era, the BBCOR era, there's a ton of one-run baseball games and we literally might win a game this coming spring because of some work that's done in here on small ball or just little intricacies of the game.

"It was bad last winter. I think it would have helped us tremendously, especially with our arms. Because we had a lot of question marks with all those pitchers… and quite frankly those weren't solved really until the very end of the year. So it would have sped up that process."

The building won't be used by only the baseball team. Arkansas track coaches Chris Bucknam and Lance Harter were also wide-eyed looking around the facility, which will serve as a throwing area during the indoor season.

The practice facility connects with the Randal Tyson Track Center, forming a new wing that will include a ticket office and trophy case for the Razorbacks' legendary indoor program.

"This is a great facility that value adds obviously not only for track and field and our indoor facility, home of the fastest track in the world, but it provides our athletes and visiting athletes the chance to really prepare and be ready to get on that track," Bucknam said. "It's also great for baseball. I think it's really important to know that we worked real hard, Lance and I, to make sure that this facility would be available to coach (Dave) Van Horn at any time of day and thus it was designed for that.

"For the most part we really worked hard to make sure that Dave could get in here at any time of day to get his team ready and vie for championships, just like track and field. So it's really a fun time for us as staffs to get together and work together to make Arkansas athletics better."

Like for baseball, Bucknam said the new building has already helped in recruiting.

"It affords us to go out and continue to go after the very best kids," Bucknam said. "When we bring them on campus the wow factor that you get from walking from the indoor track to in here is second to none."

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