Hobbs joins coach he can't beat

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Thursday, November 29, 2018
Newly hired Arkansas pitching coach Matt Hobbs (left) speaks Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018, alongside coach Dave Van Horn during a press conference to announce his hire at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Newly hired Arkansas pitching coach Matt Hobbs (left) speaks Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018, alongside coach Dave Van Horn during a press conference to announce his hire at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Matt Hobbs' recall of a midweek series at Baum Stadium years ago helped land him on Dave Van Horn's staff at the University of Arkansas as a pitching coach six years later.

Hobbs spoke with enthusiasm, candor and comedy about his history with Van Horn and the two games between the Razorbacks and Missouri -- where he was serving as pitching coach at his alma mater -- on May 1-2, 2012.

Matt Hobbs glance

Position Arkansas pitching coach

Age 38 (Birthdate: March 2, 1980)

Family Wife Marta, daughters Addison and Taylor, son Will

Alma mater Missouri

Career track Wake Forest pitching coach (2015-2018); Missouri pitching coach (2011-2014); University of San Francisco pitching coach (2010), California-San Diego associate head coach, pitching coach and recruiting coordinator (2007-2009), Santa Barbara City College pitching coach (2005-2006), Chapman University pitchers and catchers (2004)

"I'm about 1-20 in my career against Coach Van Horn as a player and a coach, so we have a little bit of history," Hobbs said Wednesday during his introductory news conference at Baum Stadium.

Hobbs, 38, who spent the past four years as pitching coach at Wake Forest, also referenced games between Missouri, where he was a pitcher, and Van Horn's teams at Nebraska in the late 1990s.

"As a coach, we played midweek down here when I was at Missouri, the year before we entered the SEC," Hobbs said. "We played a Tuesday-Wednesday series here, and I saw what it was like on a Tuesday and it was amazing.

"I could only imagine what that would be like on a weekend. That day when I was down here I was looking around at the stadium, and it was an average Missouri team against a really good Arkansas team, and the stands were absolutely packed. I could just imagine what the energy's like on an SEC weekend."

Arkansas won those games 6-3 and 2-0.

Hobbs will replace Wes Johnson, who took bold strides into analytics and biomechanics during his two-year stint with Van Horn before accepting the position of pitching coach with the Minnesota Twins.

Hobbs set up what he termed as a "hard-core biomechanics lab" during his time at Wake Forest, with 24 cameras capturing motion. He intends to do the same at Arkansas.

"It gives 3-D kinematics of everybody's delivery," Hobbs said. "It's incredibly special."

Hobbs met with the Razorbacks in a team meeting Tuesday night and started getting to know the pitchers.

"Matt's been meeting with all the pitchers individually and studying their video," Van Horn said. "Matt has a reputation out there nationally for being really innovative, a very good teacher and developer of young pitchers.

"There's a lot of guys across the country that want that type of pitching coach. We feel like with what's been going on here the last few years, this is just a smooth transition for us and we're excited to get Matt rolling."

Van Horn said he considered five or six candidates, sought input from the departing Johnson, and Hobbs was at the top of his list.

In the coming days, Hobbs will formulate winter pitching regimens tailored for each Arkansas pitcher, with input from trainer Corey Wood and strength and conditioning coach Blaine Kinsley.

"That's kind of what [Tuesday] was about a little bit, and what the next four or five days will probably be about is just figuring out from a health standpoint, checking with the trainer and the strength coach, building some kind of synergy between the three of us first," Hobbs said. "We'll kind of figure out what issues guys have, if they have any issues, if there's anything we need to know about before diagnosing a throwing plan for these guys.

"And then obviously continuing just to get to know the pitchers better. It's the same as it would be with recruiting, just trying to get to know them on a more personal level, figure out what makes them tick, what's important to them."

Hobbs inherits a pitching staff that lost starters Blaine Knight (14-0, 2.80 ERA) and Kacey Murphy (8-5, 3.20), and relievers Barrett Loseke (4-2, 2.68) and Jake Reindl (3-1, 2.91) among others. Arkansas returns key pieces such as right-handed starter Isaiah Campbell (5-7, 4.26) and left-handed closer Matt Cronin (2-2, 3.54), as well as Kole Ramage (1-1, 4.00), Caleb Bolden (3-0, 4.40), Cody Scroggins (0-0, 4.60), Zebulon Vermillion (0-0, 4.82), Jacob Kostyshock (0-0, 6.43) and Kevin Kopps, who is returning from surgery.

The departing pitchers accounted for 430 innings pitched out of the team total of 603⅓ innings, or 71.3 percent of the total.

Hobbs said he tracked the Razorbacks' progress through the College World Series last season and came in somewhat familiar with the team's pitching talent.

"Based on the video I've watched and kind of what I saw last year in the World Series, watching it as a fan and being able to see some of the guys that are returning, it's pretty exciting," Hobbs said.

Sports on 11/29/2018

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