"I just got the feeling last year that I needed to be in the dugout," Van Horn said as the Hogs began winter workouts for the 2009 season. "Moving in will allow me to do a few more things with our team."
What he's giving up is just the decisions when runners round second and third base. "Yeah, I won't be bringing them or holding them," Van Horn said. "That's all that changes. Todd Butler will do that now."
Hitters will still look to Van Horn for all signs while in the batter's box. Runners will still get their signs from Van Horn. They are just going to be looking into the dugout now. It's done that way at other places around the league.
"Ray Tanner moved to the dugout a few years ago at South Carolina after coaching most of his career at third," Van Horn said. "There are not a lot of head coaches in the third base box anymore."
If he doesn't like it, Van Horn could still change his mind.
"I don't think that's going to happen," he said. "I've been thinking about doing this for awhile. I think there are just so many more things you can do from the dugout.
"You pull a player, you can talk to them and let them know why," he said. "You can talk to each hitter and talk about approach before they go to the plate. You get to be involved a lot more from the seventh inning on."
And, there is going to be more going on with this team after the seventh inning.
"We didn't have many options last year," Van Horn said. "Not much depth. This year, we are going to be more things and I'll be able to talk players through what we are doing from the dugout.
"I'll be more involved with the pitchers, too. I'm just going to be closer to everything being in the dugout."
There is a down side to everything.
"You like being out there in the coaching box when things are going well," Van Horn said. "That's fun. So I know I'll miss that.
"But I am sure I won't miss it part of the time. On the road, you get to hear a few more things hollered at you when you are out there in the coaching box. Sometimes on the road coaching third isn't too comfortable, that's for sure. I'll let Todd have that part."
The Hogs tested it in the fall. Van Horn liked the feel. Butler has coached bases before so there isn't an adjustment there.
Van Horn looks forward to the season. He thinks the Hogs are improved. They'll need to be with the schedule that's on tap. It's easily the most ambitious the Hogs have ever faced starting with Washington State.
"Tremendous," Van Horn said of the slate. "If we win enough games, our RPI will be top 10. It doesn't matter who we play from one game to the next, they can all beat us.
"There are some mid-week games that we might set some attendance records because the games are very attractive. To win 40 games with this schedule, we'll have to play really well. Our league is tough again. The Western Division has four teams ranked. And, I look around and there are some teams not ranked in our league that I think are loaded. Tennessee has two left-handers I really like. I think I picked Tennessee higher than everyone else.
"It's going to be like always in the SEC. Everyone will beat up on each other. The key is to never get swept. If you ever have a chance to sweep, then you really can make a move."
Both Van Horn and pitching coach Dave Jorn expressed excitement over the prospects on the mound at the Swatter's Club meeting Monday.
Jorn thinks they have some real lefty-right options, both in the starting pitching and in the bullpen. He said he doesn't remember being in this position in college baseball where your pitching staff has enough depth and balance (left, right) to do some situational relieving in the middle to late innings. He said they should have both lefty, right closers. He thinks both Stephen Richards (left) and Zack Cox (right) are going to be superb closers.
On Cox, Jorn said, "I saw him pitch once in high school. I knew he was good, but I wasn't aware of how well he could locate all of his pitches until we saw him this fall. He is really good. He can REALLY locate. He has great makeup and a great feel for how to pitch. He's very good."
Cox will be the every-day player at third base, but his ability to pitch is going to be a great asset to this team. Dave Van Horn said he may even be used to win a key game as a starter, too.
"We are a lot more experienced in our pitching," Jorn said. "We are more mature. We have better stuff, better pitchability. And, we are good, numbers wise.
"The past few years, we had two decent starters, and maybe one or two reliable relief pitchers. We might have had four or five options total.
"Right now, we have seven or eight we feel like can be decent starters and then another four or five knocking at the door. We have more depth. We have plenty of lefthanded options. We will be able to save a couple for the end."
Jorn is excited about redshirt freshman Drew Smyly.
"He's got very good velocity," Jorn said. "And, he's learning how to pitch. He could become a weekend starter. He hasn't really pitched in two years because of the stress fracture in his arm, but he was good in the fall and he's been good so far since we've come back.
"We picked up right where we left off in fall ball," Van Horn said of Sunday's first practice. "It was an extension of fall ball. We had incredible energy yesterday. I enjoyed it and I think the players did, too.
"We had a great fall, as good as we've ever had. We had tremendous leadership. I'm really proud of this group."
As far as pitching, "I feel better. We have a lot more depth and good arms."
On the health of the team, there are a couple of concerns. But the news has been mainly good there. Pitcher Bryan Bingham has had some soreness in his ribs and has missed some scheduled bullpen work. Seth Gardner has been sick with strep throat, has lost weight and probably won't be full speed for another couple of weeks.