Baseball is still all the buzz around the state following the Razorbacks' four-game run in Omaha and tonight three future Hogs will take center stage in the Arkansas Coaches Association Baseball All-Star Game at Baum Stadium.
The trio of Sylvan Hills pitcher DJ Baxendale, Fayetteville outfielder Franco Broyles and Hot Springs Lakeside short stop Ben Crumpton says it's excited to represent its future team in its future home.
"Everybody wants to go out and play for the best team," said Baxendale, who went 12-0 with a 0.27 ERA as a senior. "I'm lucky enough to get to play for the team that just competed in the semifinals of the College World Series. It's a great opportunity for me. I'm just ready to be up here in the fall and play next spring, but I'm excited to play at Baum this week for All-Star Week and really looking forward to it."
Baxendale said he is excited about the future of the program after the 2009 Hogs tied school records for wins in a postseason (9) and wins in an NCAA Tournament (7). Arkansas' success on the field is paying dividends in recruiting off it.
"They do everything big-league style," Baxendale said of the Razorback coaching staff. "In the recruiting process they did everything the right way, brought me in and it was great. I like all the guys."
The program's notoriety is also growing on a national scale. Several recruits took in the games in Omaha, including Englewood, Colo., pitcher Kevin Gausman.
A senior-to-be, Gausman was impressed with what he saw from Arkansas.
"I think they're going out and recruiting kids not just from southern states anymore," said Gausman before leaving for North Carolina and Team USA workouts. "They've already got Pierce Trumper from Colorado and recruiting me also. They're going after the top players.
"They got Trumper so they must be doing something right because he's a hell of a player. With that program, watching them in the College World Series, the players seem to really know what they're representing. They do a good job of representing the state of Arkansas. They play the game with respect and do things the right way."
Gausman was also pleased with fan support. Though he has never been to Fayetteville, he is well-aware what the city and fan base have to offer.
"I think it's great how many people go their games," said Gausman, who picked up an offer from the Razorbacks this week. "Baum Stadium is ranked in the top three of the best college stadiums in the country.
"They're very high on my list."
That list includes Oregon State, Oregon and New Mexico, among others, Gausman said. The 2010 recruit is one of the nation's most highly-sought players after going 7-2 with a 2.23 ERA as a junior.
Gausman pitched complete games in each of his seven starts and had more strikeouts (60) than innings pitched (57). He has recently been featured on ESPN.com and was listed as one of eight high school arms to watch in the class of 2010 by BaseballRumorMill.com.
Though his name is being mentioned by several organizations for the 2010 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, Gausman said he has other plans in mind.
"I'm not very big," Gausman said. "I'd like to go to college and get better, and maybe get drafted for twice as much after a few years."
The trio tonight at Baum isn't shabby, either. Crumpton (Tigers, 36th round) and Broyles (Rockies, 43rd round) were taken in this year's MLB Draft and Baxendale was thought to be a high draft pick before not hearing his number called.
"My dad used to be a full-time scout for the Cleveland Indians, so we knew how the whole process went," Baxendale said. "We knew what I wanted and what it would take for me to get drafted. I had to two equal opportunities on my plate; I could either go play for the Razorbacks and then get drafted, or get (drafted) straight. So I asked for a little bit more money than they wanted to pay but it's like my mom said, ‘I can take one option and fulfill both of my dreams to play college and pro, or take the other option to just play pro.' Now I get both of my dreams."
For both pitchers, those dreams include coming in and contributing right away. Both cited Arkansas' short bullpen in its season-ending loss to LSU as a factor in considering the school.
"I was watching them and thinking to myself, ‘Gee, I wish I could put on a uniform and go out there and start pitching,'" said Gausman, whose family has owned seats above the third base dugout at Rosenblatt Stadium for 50 years. "Just going to the College World Series all these years and seeing all these teams I think it'd be great to go to college. It's a time where you know have a lot of problems and a lot of fun at the same time. I don't really know what my numbers are yet, but I think it'd be fun to go to college and have that experience."
Baxendale said the coaches have already talked with him about his potential role in 2010. With starter Dallas Keuchel (Astros, 7th round) and closer Stephen Richards (Marlins, 8th round) being taken in the draft, the right-hander has some options.
"Whether it be stepping in for Richards if he goes pro and being the new closer, or if (Mike) Bolsinger goes, step in and be the long relief guy or even take a weekend starting place after Dallas Keuchel leaves – I've done it all in high school," Baxendale said. "I've started, come in and closed, come in and relieved. I'm used to it all and I want to come in and help the team get back to Omaha and hopefully next time we'll come back with a championship."