Andy Shupe

State of the Hogs: Jorn Ready for Golf, Fishing

Dave Jorn was headed to the golf course on Wednesday after meeting with the media at Baum Stadium following a retirement announcement earlier in the week.

As rains cleared the area and the sun began to shine, Dave Jorn announced plans for some golf Wednesday afternoon. He's finally got some time for his hobbies.

"I'm going to play golf after this," Jorn said. "I'm going to play more golf, fish a little more."

Jorn retired as Arkansas pitching coach on Monday. It concluded his 14th year under Dave Van Horn, after an earlier six-year stint in the same position under Norm DeBriyn. The Hogs went to the College World Series six times with Jorn calling the pitches. There was a seventh trip in 1989 that Jorn claims, in the spring after he worked with an experienced staff in the previous fall.

Van Horn preceded Jorn to the microphone on Wednesday. When asked how long he thought Jorn had been considering the retirement, he said, "Four or five years." Jorn shot that down a little later, but did admit that there were times the previous year when it was considered.

"It hasn't been that long," Jorn said of Van Horn's comments. "But it has been the last couple of years."

Jorn has battled thyroid disease the last two years, something that almost forced him to the side last year. He said he's under medication that has relieved those issues now. It's more about just slowing down with wife Melinda.

"You don't have vacations if you are coaching college baseball," Jorn said. "I might get a day or two in December to hunt and I might night fish two days in August. But that's it. Melinda has taught for 33 years and I think she's about to call it quits, too. We are going to do some things we have not had time for over the past."

The thyroid disease was at its worst during the middle of the previous season and into the fall and summer when Jorn lost all of his hair.

"It was bad last year," Jorn said. "When they finally figured it out, it was last fall. The medication has helped. I've lost about 30 pounds and I feel really great now."

So it's not retirement in the sense of putting him out of baseball. He just doesn't want a 12-month job. He may work with professional baseball as a scout or instructor.

"What's happened in college baseball, it's every day now," he said. "You have all of the travel with recruiting. You start recruiting the players two or three years in advance (of their senior seasons). You are gone all the time. I got to the point, I didn't want to spend all that time gone.

"I love the university and the state and it's tough to walk away, but it's very different now than when I first started. I just didn't want to do all the things that it takes now."

The contact with the players will be what he misses the most. Jorn was considered a father figure by players. His phone has been buzzing with texts, emails and calls for the last three days.

"I've got some unbelievable texts," Jorn said. "Some of the messages were from players that it didn't work out here and they went somewhere else. They said I helped them in life. That's what I tried to do. Baseball, well that wasn't as important. I wanted to help them in life.

"I feel unbelievable and blessed. I had a lot of things I wanted to say to our players on Monday and I didn't make it through all of it. I finally just had to leave."

Jorn came to the podium with a bottle of water on Wednesday.

"I didn't bring a towel and I hope I don't cry," he said.

Despite his promise to head to the golf course on Wednesday afternoon, Jorn isn't clearing out his office for a bit. He said terms of his contract are through June. He'll help Jorn and assistant Tony Vitello for the full term.

"I will continue to help Dave and Tony until they find a replacement," Jorn said. "I will help them evaluate."

Van Horn said Jorn won't be asked to make any recruiting phone calls, but will be asked to check out young pitchers as recruiting continues.

"We'll let him go on the road and look at pitchers," he said. "We want him to tell us what he thinks."

Jorn said that would still leave some open days to play golf and fish.

"I got a call today from Wes McNulty," Jorn said. "He said he just caught an 8-pound bass. He's going to show me where it is. I have not been able to do any of that. I've got some offers the past couple of days. I'm going to take a step back and do some of those things now."

And, as he turned away from the media to head down the hallway to his office, there was another former player ready for a hug.

"Nick Schmidt," Jorn said. "How long you been standing there?"

It was for the entire media session.

"I didn't even notice you," Jorn said. "What a sight you are."

Then, Jorn explained what made his job special. He told of Schmidt's struggles in his junior season, battling an arm issue and off-the-field worries as he tried to dazzle pro scouts.

"I really had been trying to explain all there is in life," Jorn said. "I prayed with him. Melinda prayed with him. I left him in my office one day to talk to her on the phone. I went to the bullpen. He was late coming down."

Then, Jorn broke into his biggest smile of the day.

"You know what happened?" Jorn said. "Nick Schmidt found Christ. He came down there to see me and you could just see it, the weight of the world was gone from his shoulders. That's better than anything else that you can teach someone."

It put in perspective what Jorn had been describing minutes earlier about the struggles of the 2016 pitching staff. Jorn said a highlight during that collapse that saw the Hogs lose their last 13 games was a daily devotional time.

"We were grinding and that's all you can do," he said. "The kids kept working. It wasn't a successful year, my worst in my 20 years here.

"But they blessed me. The Lord really took care of me. He helped me. Our staff had a devotional time with them every morning. It was very rewarding."

So it wasn't all a grind for Dave Jorn. And, the fruit of his labor lives on with so many of his former players still looking for him for guidance. And, now many will try to give back, maybe with a heads up when the bass or ripe for a productive fishing trip. The old pitching coach will be there to see if they are right.

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