Van Horn: Lean and Tired

Dave Van Horn would "do it again" after serving as head coach for Team USA on a summer tour that took him to The Netherlands and Cuba.

Dave Van Horn sounded excited but tired as he went over the almost countless highlights of a 40-day trip as head coach of Team USA's baseball tour against many of the world's best amateurs. He admitted he, like many of the stars he coached, were much leaner for the experience.

"I'm tired," Van Horn said. "But I'll be fine in a week. I am really glad I got to do it and I'd do it again, but not for a couple of years."

Van Horn, along with junior pitcher Trey Killian, met with the media Thursday morning at Baum Stadium to visit about their summer. Killian pitched in three games before a sore arm shut down his summer and put him back in Fayetteville on some rehab for what eventually was diagnosed as tendinitis.

"Trey's fine," Van Horn said. "It scared us a little bit, especially after we went through that with Jalen Beeks. He saw a couple of doctors with Team USA. We didn't find any tears and we knew he was going to be fine. But we decided to shut him down. We'll go light on him to start the fall, too."

Killian came home after the trip to The Netherlands and didn't make what Van Horn described as an incredible experience in Cuba. By then, he said the team was exhausted. They lost five close games to what he said amounted to a Triple A club, an all-star team from Cuba that was fresh in a break time between seasons.

"We were in 19 hotels in 40 days," Van Horn said. "We all lost weight. I lost weight. But our guys fought hard and we were in the games. Our pitching was just as good as what they had, but they had better hitters. They were all comfortable with the wood bats and they played incredible defense -- no errors with their gloves in five games and only two throwing errors. Incredible defense."

The Cuba experience was incredible in many aspects. Van Horn considers himself a car buff and was fascinated by what he saw running -- and not running.

"They say they don't have mechanics, just magicians," Van Horn said. "I think I know cars, but I didn't know some of them. I saw 57 Chevys and about everything you can imagine. There were cars 60 and 70 years old, still running. They would show me under the hood and the parts were all different."

The food was good, but Van Horn said the heat and humidity were so stifling that it was often hard to eat.

"You just are going to lose weight," he said. "We all did. They had plenty of food, but you just can't eat enough and you are just worn out all the time. They told us that it was probably one of their hottest summers. I said, 'Great!'"

Van Horn said the Cuban people were lining the streets and the stands to see the Americans, just in person and in the stadiums.

"Really, the two stadiums we played in, they were more like bull fighting arenas. They had intercoms blaring and it was really a distraction. That was tough for us to get used to."

The Cuban team was prepared and ready.

"They didn't bring their best players to the US tour last year for fear of defections," Van Horn said. "And since we beat them in those games, they were waiting on us. You could tell it was a big deal. There was pressure on their coaches. They were hugging after they beat us in that first game."

Van Horn said there was time with the Cuban players at the resort they shared. The US players traded gloves, gear with the Cubans.

"They wanted our stuff," Van Horn said. "It was an experience to see all of that. They want what we have and I think for our players, it was an incredible experience.

"I'd say we were comfortable, but that's a good question. There was a lot of security. When we landed in Miami to come home, every one of our players clapped. I think if we had stopped on the runway, our guys would have kissed the ground."

Van Horn said he was curious to the Cuban style of pitching.

"Their best closed twice and started once," Van Horn said. "He went three times. I watched the way they worked their pitchers. They never sat down. They would throw, throw, throw.

"That's the way (Arkansas pitching coach Dave) Jorn believes in working his guys. Lots of throwing and not much icing."

Along those lines, Van Horn said the Japanese and Chinese Taipei team that his side faced in the US carried 15 position players and nine pitchers. Van Horn carried a team balanced with 12 and 12.

"They recycled their pitchers," Van Horn said.

Van Horn discussed many aspects of the summer, including the tough communication aspect of being in a foreign country with no cell phones and limited Internet.

There was also mention of the loss of Chuck Barrett as play-by-play radio announcer for baseball, something Van Horn understood.

"We are going to miss Chuck," he said. "Honestly, I figured t was going to be tough for him to do three sports. I got a text apologizing from him and that wasn't needed. I appreciate him and there are some big shoes left to fill."

The Hogs will also be replacing their Public Address announcer. Pat Kelly will not return after taking over after Larry Shank.

"That's a really important spot," Van Horn said. "He did a great job. You don't want to be the guy after the guy. That's tough. We'll look hard and we want to get someone who will get the stadium rolling."

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