No Smoke And Mirrors

FAYETTEVILLE -- OK, some Arkansas college baseball fans wondered last year, silently and aloud, if coach Dave Van Horn was doing it with smoke and mirrors.

Well, let's set the record straight.

First, he doesn't smoke. Second, sometimes even winning ugly doesn't really require a mirror even for a coach with a handsome record.

In case you've been living in a cave, where smoke is in vogue but mirrors are not, for the past 2 1/2 seasons, you might not have looked at the big picture.

Hello, it's the size of Mount Rushmore.

Since Mr. Van Horn, yep, he deserves that respect, took over the program from legendary baseball boss Norm DeBriyn -- his mug should be shaved on the side of Mount Rushmore -- in 2003, he has manufactured a 100-48 record.

Forget the rugged mug on the side of a mountain, Van Horn just happens to coach here where skyboxes should be higher than expectations.

Not the case. Everyone and his stepbrother is talking about this team. On radio talk shows, TV, in barbershops, coffee houses, etc.

Same ol' story recently.

Since he took over the reins of this bandwagon, Van Horn has guided his ballclubs to records of 35-22, 45-24 and most recently 20-2 records, heading into tonight's Southeastern Conference series home opener against No. 24 Mississippi State, another mighty foe, in Baum Stadium.

Arkansas sits perched as the No. 8 team in our country, according to Baseball America, the bible many go by to expose impostors.

Basically, what everyone has come to realize is this Razorbacks team is for real and has proven it at every opportunity.

A year ago, many folks scratched heads and couldn't figure out if what they were watching was live or Memorex.

Actually, it's been that way since Van Horn returned to his alma mater, which again is tippy-toeing toward the top of the college baseball universe.

And in the world, according to Garp -- was he a former athletic director at Arkansas? -- Dave Van Horn always has been the perfect choice to succeed DeBriyn.

And it started with the return of this former Porkers All-Southwest Conference second sacker Dave Van Horn, three calendars back.

So, how does he do it?

We know it's not smoke, it's not mirrors.

Yo Dave, what gives? What's the secret to your success? Inquiring minds and a lot of supermarket tabloids want to know.

"I guess the first year, I didn't expect to win maybe 35 games, to be honest with you, after fall practice," Van Horn said. "That's a credit to the players getting it done on the field and the coaches getting them motivated.

"Last year, we just got on a good run. This year's team, we just kind of expect to win. To answer your question, I don't think about those things, I expect to win 40-plus (games) every year, I mean, that's our goal, hopefully 50, because if you win 50, you might be in Omaha."

Like Arkansas was last June, winning the NCAA Fayetteville Regional and Super Regional and then loading up the bus -- when gas was under $2.00 a gallon -- for Omaha, Neb., for the College World Series.

If these Hogs get back, better bring an unlimited credit card.

Fill 'er up! No one will complain.

"That credit just goes to the players," Van Horn said. "And the coaches getting them ready to go."

On the other hand, those Mississippi Staters are mighty good, too. Always have been. Probably always will be.

Dave, your thoughts?

"They have experience in there and there's not much replacing experience," Van Horn said. "They have guys who have been there, done that. We know in the SEC, weekend series are important, especially an SEC West game.

"It should be a good series."

Arkansas returns home today as stingy as Hogs second baseman Scott Bridges with a stolen base tucked under his arm.

Bottom line, these dudes just can't stand to lose.

Want a reason?

Three words: Dave Van Horn.

JERRY L. REED IS A SENIOR SPORTS WRITER FOR THE MORNING NEWS. E-MAIL: JREED@NWAONLINE.NET

Hawgs Daily Top Stories