Future Looks Bright For Diamond Hogs

FAYETTEVILLE -- Shortly after Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn finished fielding questions during his formal season-ending news conference Thursday, he stared outside his office, situated high above Baum Stadium.

As the hot, early afternoon sun, danced off the clear, clean window, Van Horn could see nothing but brighter days ahead for his baseball program.

One might call it seeing the big picture.

"I think our future is bright," Van Horn said. "We're disappointed we didn't have a little more in the field and on the mound ... we're not talking pro-type guys, or big-time Division I all-conference-type players, but we got over the hump this year in recruiting.

"I think coach (Todd) Butler (hitting coach) and coach (Dave) Jorn (pitching coach) did a tremendous job.

"I think that next year, you're going to see a pretty physical, physical team on the field, an athletic team and just a little top-to-bottom athletic-type team with a little more talent."

Obviously this season, though, the Razorbacks had enough talent, like in the three previous calendars, to manufacture four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances.

Arkansas just finished its season with a 39-21record, including an 18-12 march through the Southeastern Conference and an NCAA regional host position, with hopes of better things ahead.

"Yeah, I think the future is bright," Van Horn said.

That future may or may not include junior first baseman Danny Hamblin, junior third baseman Blake Parker and junior right-hander Daryl Maday, all taken this week in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

If Hamblin stays, he'll probably be shifted to the outfield where his professional potential is most fertile.

Hamblin, who hit .289 with a team-leading 17 home runs and team-leading 68 RBIs this season, was picked in the ninth round by the Oakland A's.

So what will he do?

"I don't know yet," Hamblin said Thursday. "I haven't talked with the A's since I was drafted. I'm hoping to get this over with as soon as possible.

"I don't want to drag this out."

Hamblin said if he doesn't sign, he'll play this summer in the Cape Cod League along with Arkansas teammates, outfielder Clint Arnold and pitcher Shaun Seibert.

Parker, a Fayetteville High product with a rocket arm, was drafted as a catcher by the Chicago Cubs in the 16th round on Tuesday.

He, too, hasn't made up his mind.

"Man, I'm still kind of working it out," Parker said. "I'm not really sure yet on what I'm going to do. I have to get all the details.

"In a few days, I'll probably know."

Van Horn said Hamblin could return, but indicated he didn't expect Parker and Maday to follow suit.

"Talked with Danny, you know in professional baseball, Danny's probably going to be a corner outfielder," Van Horn said. "So, we did talk to him yesterday about playing in the outfield.

"Probably left field."

That said, look for junior Jake Dugger, who hit .317 with 12 homers and 44 RBIs to make a permanent move to center field, vacated by Craig Gentry who was drafted in the 10th round by the Texas Rangers.

Also back might be often-injured infielders Ben Tschepikow and John Henry Marquardt, if he gets a medical clearance.

Still, if not ...

"We'll be a lot better, no doubt about it," Van Horn said. "(All-American) Nick Schmidt leading the pitching staff and staying healthy and about four or five guys we're bringing in that are going to step right in and pitch.

"The talent level is going to be up."

That level, too, was already elevated this past season when pure freshman James Ewing was inserted into the lineup at second base.

Injuries, however, prevented him, too, from flourishing.

Still, he hit a team-leading .366 in 34 games played and figures to make a difference next season.

And ...

On Thursday, he was named to Collegiate Baseball's freshmen All-America team along with his twin brother, Michael, who plays first base for Southern Mississippi.

Maybe, that's just one more reason Van Horn could see nothing but brighter days ahead for his baseball program.

Hawgs Daily Top Stories