Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Mizzou nothing new for Vitello
Tony Vitello, assistant coach for the Arkansas baseball team, talks with the media Friday, Feb. 7, 2014 at the University of Arkansas baseball media day at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas assistant coach Tony Vitello may need to remind himself not to go into the home dugout this weekend when the Razorbacks play at Missouri.
"I definitely spent a lot of days -- and enjoyable ones -- in that particular dugout, but I'm a Razorback now," Vitello said. "I'll just go wherever the guys in red are."
Arkansas at Missouri
WHEN 6 p.m. Central Thursday
WHERE Taylor Stadium, Columbia, Mo.
RECORDS Arkansas 32-21, 13-14 SEC; Missouri 6-21, 20-30
RADIO Razorbacks Sports Network stadwide network. Not all games will be carried by all affiliates. Check local listings.
Vitello, 34, spent 11 years with the Missouri baseball program: three as a player, one as a volunteer assistant and seven as a full-time assistant coach.
When the Razorbacks open a three-game series against Missouri on Thursday night in Columbia, Mo., it will mark the first time Vitello has coached against his alma mater.
"I had a great experience at Missouri, and I love the city of Columbia and got a chance to really see it grow when I was there," said Vitello, who lettered three seasons as an infielder for the Tigers from 2000-2002 and earned a bachelor's degree in management and master's degree in business from Missouri. "I think Fayetteville's kind of going through the same process as enrollment has shot up at the university."
Vitello, from St. Louis, played and coached for Tim Jamison, who is in his 20th season as Missouri's coach. As a member of the coaching staff, Vitello helped the Tigers make seven NCAA regional appearances. He was the recruiting coordinator and pitching coach and assisted with the hitters.
Among the pitchers Vitello coached at Missouri were Detroit Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, Kansas City's Aaron Crow and Minnesota's Kyle Gibson -- all first-round draft choices.
"Coach Jamison introduced me into Division I baseball and was very generous to do so with a walk-on opportunity, and then to hire me at a young age and introduce me into college coaching," Vitello said. "Those two things will never go away for me."
Vitello left Missouri after the 2010 season and spent three years as an assistant at TCU, where his primary duties were as recruiting coordinator and pitching coach. He came to Arkansas last summer to replace Todd Butler -- who became Wichita State's head coach -- as recruiting coordinator and hitting coach.
"It's definitely been a hectic transition this first year, but I've grown to love Fayetteville," Vitello said. "I've honestly never enjoyed going to the office more as it relates to the setting I get to work in and how I'm treated and the people I'm around and what I'm learning.
"I'd like to think I'm every bit as much of a competitor as a baseball coach. I really do love to compete, and there's no better place to compete than the SEC. It's the best."
Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn praised Vitello's contributions as a coach and recruiter. The Razorbacks have raised their batting average from .261 to .266 since opening a series against then-No. 1 South Carolina in early April.
"Offensively, we've actually jumped it up the last month of the season," Van Horn said. "That's with a lot of at-bats and facing the best pitching we've faced all year.
"So just thinking about the future and the guys that will be in the program next year, we should continue to get better offensively."
Arkansas outfielder Tyler Spoon said Vitello brings a lot of intensity as a coach.
"He's just a ball of energy," Spoon said. "He's always focused and ready to go and gets us ready to play as well."
Vitello said he hasn't been feeling special emotions about his return to Missouri.
"That may change when I get on campus," he said. "For right now, I just want to win on Thursday night."
LSU 27, Northwestern State 0 Texas A&M 3, Sam Houston State 1 Ole Miss 16, Arkansas State 9 Vanderbilt 10, SE Missouri St. 4 Auburn 6, UAB 5 Alabama 15, Jacksonville 10 Georgia Tech 2, Georgia 0 Murray State 4, Kentucky 3 South Carolina 10, Citadel 1 Florida 8, USF 2 Tennessee 14, Morehead St. 13
All times Central
Florida at Tennessee, 5 p.m.
Arkansas at Missouri, 6 p.m.
Kentucky at Georgia, 6 p.m. LSU at Auburn, 6 p.m. South Carolina at Vanderbilt, 6:30 p.m. Mississippi St. at Alabama, 6:35 p.m. Ole Miss at Texas A&M, 6:35 p.m.
Sports on 05/14/2014