FAYETTEVILLE - Easter should be something special. It was for Arkansas baseball to close out the weekend.
You have to know the inside stuff to know how special. If you would have been in the outfield seats in front of the UA bullpen Saturday evening, that might have been enough. You would have heard Zack Cox and James McCann give their personal testimony to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes group. High school students from all over Arkansas were there for their Easter message.
Or , you could have watched Dave Van Horn tear up as Karen Kuhn celebrated life after her son Collin finished off one of the most improbable Arkansas victories of all-time with a two-out, two-strike, walk-off grand slam to help Arkansas defeat Kentucky, 17-16, on Sunday at Baum Stadium.
Or, you could have watched the Kentucky coaches screaming at their players to "get on the bus" as Arkansas fans taunted them after the game. The Wildcats had done the taunting early as they took a 5-0 lead, then a 16-13 lead. One of their stars on the day made an obscene sign to the Arkansas fans midway through the game. The Wildcats heard it from fans the rest of the way.
Kuhn's mother can't speak. She has battled cancer with two surgeries on her vocal cords. She was jumping up and down in the stands when Van Horn was talking to the media. He stopped twice during the interview when he saw her in the background over the heads of the surrounding throng of reporters and TV cameras.
"I'm sorry, not sure I can talk right now," Van Horn said. "That's pretty special for her to be here to see Collin do that. Unbelievable for her and for him today. She's doing great and all. So I'm so happy for them. I need to pause for a second or I may lose it. What a day."
Kuhn's homer came after he took a 2-and-1 pitch for a called strike. It looked a little low.
"He would have had a 3-1 count and could have been aggressive," Van Horn said. "Then, he had to be defensive with two strikes. He just dropped the head of the bat on it and got it up in the wind. Unbelievable."
That's what everyone called Saturday's talk from Cox and McCann, the sophomore captains of the UA baseball team. They met with the FCA students and any Razorback fans who waited after they showered and changed. UA hitting coach Todd Butler was there, too.
"It was just awesome, incredible testimony," Butler said. "They are like that every day, telling their story to everyone who will listen. Cox? He's the man. He gave God his career. There are just so many stories like that from him."
Cox told how he grew up in a Godly home, was a regular in church, but had always played baseball for himself. He was frustrated with his play most of last season when he thought he might quit the game after his freshman season. It was at a FCA meeting the night before the Hogs played Georgia in the SEC tournament that he changed that part of his life, too. He said he "gave God everything."
The next day against the Bulldogs, he struck out in his first at bat. But instead of his usual angry nature after a poor at bat, he was calm. He said he gently replaced his bat and helmet and sat relaxed on the bench. In his next at bat, he hit the home run that has become legendary in SEC baseball circles. It went high off the top of the massive scoreboard at Hoover Stadium. Some estimates put it well over 500 feet.
As he came around third base and saw his teammates waiting for him at home plate, it hit him that maybe he'd found the secret. If he turned things over to God, maybe baseball could be his thing.
"You just have to give Him everything," he said Saturday, then repeated again Sunday after the victory over Kentucky. "I've been on fire ever since.
"Giving your testimony to kids like that yesterday was a great blessing from God. It was like going 4-for-4."
Indeed, Cox, who autographs baseballs with a Bible verse, has had some days at the plate like that. He is hitting .420 this season. He was one of the the catalysts in the Hogs drive to the College World Series last year. He's having a blast these days. It was clear he enjoyed his chance to give glory to God after Saturday's game.
"It means the world to me every chance I get to do something like that," he said Sunday. "It's nice to win the game today and it's fun to win this way, but it was going to be a great Easter either way. Baseball is just baseball. Every Easter is going to be awesome."
Still, it has to be special for Cox. He's a native of Louisville, Ky. He actually committed to Kentucky.
"That was just for a few days," he said Sunday. "I knew Arkansas was where I needed to play baseball. Kentucky is more of a basketball/football school, then hockey. Baseball is after that. But it was going to be a great Easter anyway."
McCann said the same thing. Then, he smiled before one final thought on beating the Wildcats. He said, "They were a little yippy. It was nice to finally put them away."
State of the Hogs: Easter Blessing
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