Matt Jones is the online sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Northwest Arkansas Newspapers. He and his wife live in Fayetteville.
Spoon enjoying great start
Freshman outfielder not so keen on Twitter fad
Arkansas outfielder Tyler Spoon scores a run in the first game of a Feb. 19 doubleheader against New Orleans at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
SURPRISE, Ariz. There is another Tyler turning heads in a #8 Razorbacks jersey.
It didn't take long for Tyler Spoon to become a favorite among Arkansas baseball fans. The redshirt freshman outfielder from Van Buren has a hit in his first eight games, leads the team and is second in the SEC with 13 RBIs and has drawn six walks.
“We knew he was a hitter when we got him out of high school," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "It wasn’t like he was facing the pitching he’s facing now. I think this past summer really elevated him. He’ll tell you the first 30 at-bats last year in summer ball, he wasn’t very good. And then after that it started happening for him and it has just continued. He’s got a good swing.
"I guess probably so far he probably exceeded what I thought. But I knew that he was in there. It’s just a matter of when it was going to come out."
Last weekend, Spoon recorded the highlight of his young career with a go-ahead grand slam in the eighth inning of a win over Evansville. It was his second home run of the year.
As he rounded the bases following the grand slam, cheers of "Spooooon" rolled throughout Baum Stadium. On Twitter, another term was gaining steam.
The hashtag #spoonsanity quickly caught on for Arkansas fans after players had used it in the weeks leading up to the season. Following the grand slam, the term was tweeted or retweeted more than 1,000 times over the next two days.
"How could you not notice it?," said outfielder Matt Vinson. "It's everywhere.
"We give him a lot of flak for it, I guess, but it's great. If it's taking off, then it means he's driving in runs and hitting well, and that's all I care about. If it's taking off, let it take off and let him hit 30 home runs."
Spoon, relatively reserved and quiet, said he doesn't much care for the "Spoon-sanity" fad.
"It's getting a little out of control," he said. "(Colby) Suggs started it last fall, and then it actually got big. It's happened, so I guess I've got to wear it. I'm not big on all the attention.
"The Lord has really been good to me. I'd rather it be someone else, but it's cool to have people like the way you play. I'm really blessed by it."
He defers the credit for his success to his teammates. In the postgame press conference after his grand slam, he dodged questions about his swing and acknowledged the batters who reached base in front of him.
"He's a really humble dude and he doesn't want the attention on himself," said Brandon Moore, Spoon's childhood friend and roommate. "He's not the kind of guy who lets that kind of thing go to his head."
While the success has taken some by surprise, it hasn't surprised those who have kept up with Spoon. His stock soared after last summer when he hit 10 home runs in a wood bat summer baseball league in Alaska.
Spoon redshirted last season, though he turned down a chance to play midway through the year. He was already in Alaska by the time the Razorbacks made it to the College World Series. In Anchorage, Spoon watched the action from Omaha on his iPhone in the dugout before his own games.
"It was tough at first," Spoon said. "I didn't want to get redshirted, but it was the best thing that happened to me. I got to learn the mental part of the game. I just took advantage of that time, got stronger and got myself ready for this year."
He was one of the team's toughest outs in fall practice, finishing the annual intrasquad series with a .333 batting average. Moore said it was only a matter of time before the same results spilled over to the Razorbacks' real games.
"His confidence has changed from last year," Moore said. "In practice, he's not really outspoken, but the way he works and the way he practices hard shows great leadership qualities. By next year he'll be one of the guys that has the C on his chest.
"He takes the same approach every single day and he's still working as hard as he was last year, even though he wasn't playing. He's the same, no matter what. It's exciting to watch him play and watch him succeed, and have fun."