Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Biletnikoff Award.
Diamond Hogs open in cold
Arkansas catcher Jake Wise warm ups before the start of the Razorbacks first practice of the season Friday afternoon at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas opened preseason practice Friday under freezing conditions at Baum Stadium.
The Razorbacks practiced about 90 minutes with stiff north winds and temperatures that only reached the upper 20s. Arkansas opens the season Feb. 14 with the first of a three-game series against Appalachian State.
"It's pretty brutal down here," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said. "It's not bad the first 15 or 20 minutes, but with that wind kicking up it makes it a little rough to throw."
Van Horn said that despite the weather his team was able to get a lot of work accomplished. He said the players were happy to be back on the field three months removed from the end of fall practices.
The Diamond Hogs were somewhat limited Friday because of injuries to key players. Outfielder Tyler Spoon and catcher Jake Wise are still recovering from off-season hernia surgeries, and outfielder Joe Serrano was held out with an unspecified injury.
"I think Spoon will be ready and Serrano will be fine by (the start of the season)," Van Horn said. "Wise's surgery was a little bit later than Spoon's was so…it's a hard question to answer, but I think all of them are going to be real close to being ready."
The Razorbacks held the practice in the shadow of their new $9.6 million indoor facility being constructed adjacent to Baum Stadium. The facility is expected to be completed this summer and will help during cold days moving forward.
"I'm excited for the day that indoor facility goes up," Spoon said. "It's always good to feet out here in the cold weather. Mentally it gets you ready because there are going to be cold days like this in the season where it's going to be mid-30s, no sun or anything. You've just got to play through it. Days like today are really good for us."
Arkansas will scrimmage Saturday and Sunday at noon without Spoon, Wise and Serrano, Van Horn said. All practices are open to the public.
"From what I've seen the hitters are swinging the bats pretty well for this early in the season," Van Horn said. "We face some live pitching tomorrow so I think it will kind of tell us where we are."