Arkansas Freshman Makes Texas-Sized Contribution

FAYETTEVILLE -- Don't be surprised if some day Clint Arnold winds up sitting behind an expensive, solid oak desk in an oval office.

Maybe even at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

There is something presidential about this stumpy 5-foot-8, 185-pound Arkansas freshman baseball player.

He'd be a landslide winner in the blue-collar states.

And if elected ...

Maybe it's the high-strung attention to detail or his wide-eyed approach to life as he carefully edits his conversation as he delivers every speech that would make him so electable.

Or maybe because his future career might be in the genes.

Arnold's grandfathers both are/were in public service. One grandpappy, Charles England -- his grandchildren call him "Cog" -- is the honorable mayor of Grand Prairie, Texas.

His other grandpa, Bill Arnold, is a retired Texas state representative.

Omen?

Maybe in the future -- but for now -- Clint Arnold isn't vigorously campaigning for anything except his team.

That campaign continues this weekend, starting at 7:05 p.m. today when the No. 14 Razorbacks meet Vanderbilt in another critical Southeastern Conference series in Baum Stadium.

"I just want us to keep getting better," Arnold said. "That's what it's all about, improving with each game and winning them, too."

Arnold's done his part for the Razorbacks (24-6), especially at the plate.

He's hitting .330 with 5 doubles and 14 RBIs. Arnold, too, is 5 of 7 on stolen base attempts and has started and played more games (26) than any freshman on the team.

Really, kind of mind boggling.

"You know the way I look at it, I just want to keep getting better," Arnold said. "The season's still a little early and I really haven't done anything yet. I just want to keep on getting better and better. Keep on staying positive and don't take anything for granted.

"It's a long season."

AS GOOD AS ADVERTISED
It really should come as no surprise Arnold has done so well in his rookie season. All signs pointed to it when he left his high school campus, just a bunt away from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

He ended his preps career with a .450 batting average with 6 home runs and 100 RBIs.

How'd he do that?

"Clint's blessed with a great swing," said Razorbacks hitting coach Matt Deggs. "Clint pretty much will always be productive because he has a swing that he can rely on. It's a short, flat, inside swing that's very repetitive.

"You know, that's pretty much why we recruited him and that's a big reason why he's having a lot of success."

Deggs freely admits he's not shocked at the instant gratification Arnold has given this team.

"We were pretty much banking on it," Deggs said. "We thought he would come in and do well immediately because he's got a swing that you look for.

"It's not unlike golf when you see a grooved out swing that a guy can repeat, those are the guys winning tournaments. A hitter who has a swing that is grooved out and it's flat and it's inside the ball and it's short with a little extension, those guys are going to hit.

"Clint is just a strong kid, mentally and physically."

So, any character flaws?

Well, sort off.

"He beats himself up all the time, about his at-bats," said Razorbacks coach Dave Van Horn. "We've got to get him under control. We've got to get him calmed down a little bit, but I'd rather have that guy than a passive guy."

The plain, unvarnished truth is Arnold is a competitive person.

"I remember when he was little, he'd go for the ball wherever it was," England said. "He played everywhere. Even if he was in the infield, if a ball was hit into the outfield, Clint would beat the outfielder there before the outfielder got a chance to get to the ball.

"That's how competitive he was, really still is."

ONE TOUGH HOMBRE
Arnold is a throwback to the golden age of baseball when players thought getting their uniforms dirty was necessary, where hustling on every play was the norm and where running into walls was commonplace.

Want an example?

Last Saturday during an 8-7 loss against then-No. 23 Auburn, Arnold, playing left field, had his foot stuck on the accelerator again -- he knows only one speed -- before he came to an abrupt halt.

Arnold ran head-first into the wall while trying to make a leaping catch at the warning track on a double by Russell Dixon in Plainsman Park where there is no padding on the outfield wall.

Arnold started to get up then quickly sat back down as both team's trainers sprinted out to check on his condition. After getting a butterfly bandage on his bleeding nose, Arnold refused to leave the game.

That play became fodder for Van Horn's talk with members of the Swatter's Club on Monday.

"For those of you who saw the replay or got to see the highlights know what happened," Van Horn said. "He's the kid ... we've always made the comment, 'He'll run through a wall for ya.'

"Well, he tried.

"Honestly, Clint was closer than me to this wall and he was running at full speed. We've got a one-run lead at the time, tight game, ball hit his glove ... he hit face-first into the wall, cut his nose and they scored a couple of runs ... he didn't even know where he was at, at first, but he's all right. Blood's running all over his face.

"He doesn't want to come out of the game.

"We left him in because I felt he gave it such a great effort and I wanted to give him a shot to stay in. He put a dent in that wall. When we picked up his hat ... the bill was bent up. That's how hard he hit.

"He's a tough kid."

Of course, his grandparents already knew that.

But ...

"Scared the hell out of us," Charles England said. "I'll tell ya that."

His wife, Janice -- the grandchildren call her "Nece" -- also was listening in horror.

"It scared us to death when he hit that wall," she said. "It was tough on grandparents and parents, too."

ALL IN THE FAMILY
The Englands are scheduled to arrive in Fayetteville shortly before tonight's game against Vanderbilt and root for their grandson once again.

"They come to a lot of games," Arnold said. "My whole family has been really supportive.

"They care about me."

Do they ever.

"I can tell you, if we aren't in Fayetteville, we are on the computer listening to the games on the Internet," Charles England said. "It's been a lot of fun watching Clint grow up and play baseball. We are so proud of him."

When Arkansas opened the season at Dallas Baptist, his grandparents were there. They were there when he played at Centenary.

"How many games have we been to this season? Golly, let me think," Janice England said. "I almost have to look at my calendar. I just know, if we can be there, we'll be there because we are so very proud of him."

When they do come to games, their grandson is in the lineup, either as a starting catcher, outfielder or designated hitter.

"Yeah, we thought he would play as a freshman," Van Horn said. "We knew he would play a lot as a freshman, maybe start. For the most part, he comes to play every day.

"He's done a good job."

Arnold readily accepts the responsibility.

"You know, catching is something I've done for awhile," Arnold said. "I've played that position since I was little. Catching, you really have to be worried about your defense, you really have to stay hooked up. You really don't have time to worry about your hitting, if you had a bad at-bat the last inning, something like that.

"When you're in the outfield or DHing, you have a little more time to think about things like that. I'd say that's the biggest difference."

No matter where Clint Arnold is, he seems to be a difference maker.

"I remember when he was a little, bitty thing he helped Charles get elected mayor," Janice England said. "He rode in parades and everything."

And if elected ...




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