Diamond Hogs Quickly Become Talk Of The Town Again

FAYETTEVILLE -- It genuinely seems like everyone in Northwest Arkansas within earshot is talking about the Arkansas college baseball team.

You can hear it in coffee shops, department stores, barbershops and the office.

They just can't seem to keep their traps shut.

And for good reason.

These proud Porkers are 12-1, ranked 18th in America the Beautiful and undefeated in Baum Stadium ("The Field of Screams"), which has created more traffic jams than a Los Angeles freeway.

And Diamond Hogs fans are treating Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn like a rock star, minus the multiple tattoos, pierced body parts and posse.

Sheesh, dude can't even eat a decent meal in a restaurant without someone asking for an autograph or posing for a picture.

Just made that up. Really, don't know.

Betcha it's true, though, because he's quickly becoming a cult hero now his team's following is so large, and continues to grow by leaps and bounds.

That's what happens when one of the best coaches in the country, with an undoctored resume to prove it, enters a room.

Van Horn guided his first two Arkansas ballclubs into the NCAA Tournament, including a trip to the College World Series -- it was the school's first trip to Omaha, Neb., since 1989 -- last June.

And these Fightin' Razorbacks are off and running again.

Van Horn, a former Arkansas player himself, carefully fielded questions like he used to field grounders as an All-Southwest Conference second baseman (1982) on Monday at the monthly Swatter's Club luncheon.

Yo Dave, did you expect this much success, this fast?

"Realistically, if you'd ask me at the beginning of the season where we expected to be ... 10-2, 10-3, 11-2, would you take it?" Van Horn said. "The coaches probably would say, 'No, we just want to just go out and just play.'

"Deep, down inside, if we go out and play on the road ... if we get off to a start like that, it would be great.

"So, we're satisfied where we're at, wins and loses, but being the coach that I am, I'm still not happy about losing to Louisiana Tech (10-8 on Feb. 19 in Ruston, La.). We had a four-run lead going into the second, but the way I look at it, I think it helped us beat Minnesota (in the opening series at home the next weekend) because of it.

"I'm proud of our team sweeping Minnesota."

Van Horn's Hoggies then swept Illinois-Chicago this past weekend to improve to 6-0 inside the Fayetteville city limits.

Today, the Men of Pig play perennial power Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla.

"Oklahoma State, they want to beat us," Van Horn said. "This past weekend, I think we were a little bit flat. We didn't really play that great. Our job as coaches is to get the kids ready to play, no matter who we play."

What probably helped overcome a lot of out-of-the-ordinary bonehead mistakes was the roar of the ever-growing crowds which have almost overpopulated Baum Stadium.

Over the weekend, 16,550 soaked-in-Razorback-red citizens showed up to exercise their lungs. A season-high 6,843 showed up Saturday to watch Arkansas win 15-4.

"I mean, the crowds were awesome," said senior shortstop Scott Hode after Sunday's 9-2 win. "We have the best fans in the world."

You'll get no argument from Van Horn.

"The crowds have been incredible," he said. "I mean, I've talked to the kids about it. It's been really good.

"I almost wish you all could come down on the field and look back and see what we're seeing. I mean, it's just red and white and noisy.

"We can hear ya, it's like the fans are right on top of you, even the skybox, you could even hear conversations going on up there.

"So, watch what you're saying."

That line brought out a collective roar of laughter from the overflow Swatter's Club crowd.

It was one of many zingers Van Horn used Monday.

"Dave Van Horn, ladies and gentlemen ... here all week."

Stop it Dave, you're killing us!

Seriously ...

"It's fun, it's fun for our players," Van Horn said. "You know, we've got kids right now who aren't getting to play everyday ... they want to talk, they'll come into see me. They'll come in and talk and I'll say, 'Are you OK with everything?' They say, 'Yeah, this is where I want to be. I want to play in front of all those fans.' That's what they say.

"It's kind of neat."

Because ...

It genuinely seems like everyone in Northwest Arkansas within earshot is talking about the Arkansas college baseball team.


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