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.
Gosser's role increases, even as a backup
Jake Arledge (15), Arkansas right fielder, and Jared Gates (3), Arkansas third baseman, congratulate Alex Gosser, Arkansas catcher, after he hit a home run Thursday, April 13, 2017 during eighth inning against Georgia the game at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- The "Bus" will be pulling into North Little Rock later this week.
University of Arkansas, Fayetteville catcher Alex Gosser, a senior from North Little Rock nicknamed "Bus," will make his final home appearance when the No. 14 Razorbacks play Memphis Wednesday night at Dickey-Stephens Park.
It will be the second game of a two-game series that starts tonight when Arkansas plays Memphis at Baum Stadium.
Gosser said his teammates started calling him "Goss Bus" late in his sophomore season in reference to a character known as "Gus Bus" in the movie "The Benchwarmers."
"I'm just a big-bodied guy, so it works," said Gosser, 6-0 and 215 pounds. "Nobody even calls me by my first name anymore.
"It's just the 'Bus' now. They don't even use the 'Goss' part."
The "Bus" started becoming a popular nickname for Gosser outside of the team earlier this season after he scored from first base on a double by Jax Biggers in the Razorbacks' 12-3 victory over Louisiana-Monroe.
Arkansas baseball's Twitter account posted video of Gosser running the bases with the caption "Who knew the Bus had some speed!?!"
Gosser didn't have to move as quickly when he hit his first career home run off Georgia reliever Shaefer Shepard in the seventh inning of the Razorbacks' 14-4 victory last Thursday night.
It was the left-handed hitting Gosser's first at-bat of the game after he came in as a defensive replacement for starting catcher Grant Koch.
Gosser hit a 2-0 fastball over the right field fence.
"I was in a hitter's count so I was looking for a fastball," Gosser said. "I was thinking, 'I've got to get my hands out here and do something in.'
"It was a little in and a little low and I just took advantage of it. Hitting a home run felt great. It was a long time coming."
The fans and Arkansas' players celebrated as if Gosser had hit a game-winning grand slam with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning.
"I mean, it was just electric," Razorbacks second baseman Carson Shaddy said. "That was like the best thing ever for Gosser.
"He deserves every single praise that he's gotten from that home run. Everybody was so happy for him. I just can't put it into words how special that was for him."
Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn said Gosser is as good of a teammate any player could have because of his personality, attitude and approach.
"No. 1, everybody likes him," Van Horn said. "The second thing is, he knows he's not going to play a whole lot, but he still shows up every day to practice with a smile on his face and catches bullpens and works during the games catching our pitchers while they're getting ready and warming up in the bullpen.
"Then it seems like whenever we put him in the game, he finds a way to put the barrel on the ball and gets his hits."
Gosser is batting .389 (7 for 18) with 4 runs batted in and 5 runs in 10 games, including four starts.
It isn't easy for him to find playing time behind Koch, a good defensive catcher batting .314 with 9 home runs and 33 RBI as the team's cleanup hitter.
"Grant's a stud and he's been leading our team to a lot of victories," Gosser said. "I'm just here to do what I can.
"If that means to play once or a week or get into a game late or pinch hit, that's my role. Being an older guy, I've learned to be mature about it and accept it and go out there and take advantage of whatever playing time I do get."
Gosser was expected to redshirt as a true freshman in 2014, but after not playing in the first 50 games he found himself starting against Texas A&M because of injuries to No. 1 catcher Jake Wise and backup Blake Baxendale.
When Gosser came up to bat for the first time in what became a 3-2 Arkansas victory, the Baum Stadium crowd gave him a standing ovation knowing he was giving up his redshirt.
"That says a lot about a guy," Shaddy said. "He's always there to help you."
Gosser said that at the time he wondered if he doing the right thing, but now he has no doubt even though he played in just eight games as a freshman.
"Now that I've grown into a mature player and I'm a senior and I know the program, I wouldn't trade playing as a freshman for anything in the world," he said. "I was just the right person at the right time to get my redshirt pulled for the team.
"I've gotten a lot of love from it and it definitely helped kick-start my career."
Appreciation for Gosser from teammates and fans has continued to grow.
"He's a leader on the team," Arkansas outfielder Luke Bonfield said. "He's a guy who knows when to goof around and knows when to get serious."
Gosser said he's learned he doesn't need to be a starter to help his teammates. He's provided numerous answers for those who had questions or concerns.
"If I can't be a Grant Koch or a Carson Shaddy or a Luke Bonfield and get 300 at-bats a year, I think of other things to do," Gosser said. "I pride myself on being that calm, cool, collected guy.
"Anybody that needs to have a talk or is struggling, they can always come to me."
Gosser figures to be especially popular with fans when the Razorbacks play their annual game at Dickey-Stephens Park.
"t's always special to me to play in North Little Rock," Gosser said. "I've got about 35 or 40 tickets for my parents and family and friends.
"It's a chance for central and southern Arkansas people that don't get a chance to come to Fayetteville for a game to experience the Razorbacks.
"I was a part of that as a kid. I didn't get to go to a lot of the games up in Fayetteville, but I always came to the football and baseball games in Little Rock.
"So me personally, I know exactly how the fans feel. Hopefully we can give them a great show."
Gosser is graduating in May with a degree in Kinesiology. He plans to get a job selling medical supplies and is engaged to marry Olivia Coleman in January.
Gosser and Coleman — an RBI Girl as a member of Arkansas' pom-pon squad — have been dating since they were sophomores at North Little Rock High School.
"Alex has had a great experience here," Van Horn said. "I'm just really glad he's on our team."
Gosser has battled through foot, shoulder and elbow injuries at times with the Razorbacks, but said he has nothing to complain about.
"I wouldn't change anything," he said. "I feel I've had a great career at Arkansas with no regrets."
Sports on 04/18/2017
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