For Wilson, return to Fayetteville among 'biggest memories'

By: Matt Jones
Published: Wednesday, April 10, 2019
Oral Roberts second baseman Hunter Wilson points to the Arkansas fans prior to his first at-bat of a game Tuesday, April 9, 2019, in Fayetteville. Wilson, who played two seasons for the Razorbacks before transferring for his final year of eligibility, received a standing ovation from the crowd at Baum-Walker Stadium.
Photo by J.T. Wampler
Oral Roberts second baseman Hunter Wilson points to the Arkansas fans prior to his first at-bat of a game Tuesday, April 9, 2019, in Fayetteville. Wilson, who played two seasons for the Razorbacks before transferring for his final year of eligibility, received a standing ovation from the crowd at Baum-Walker Stadium.

— As Oral Roberts infielder Hunter Wilson stepped to the plate in the first inning Tuesday, the first few seconds of Kid Rock's "Cowboy" played over the speakers at Baum-Walker Stadium.

Playing a walk-up song for an opposing player wasn't an accident. It was a thank you.

Fans stood and cheered for the former Arkansas infielder known as "Cowboy." Wilson removed his batting helmet and waved to the fans, many of whom he has remained in contact with since his transfer to ORU last year.

"I didn't think it was going to be that big, but seeing everybody, seeing all the Hog fans, it's unbelievable how much respect they have," Wilson said following Arkansas' 15-8 victory over ORU. "I can always call this place home. This was incredible.

"Honestly, I've had a lot of memories in life, in baseball, but that might have topped one of the biggest memories my entire career."

It was a rare occurrence in Arkansas sports, reminiscent of when basketball player Sunday Adebayo came back to Bud Walton Arena as a player for Memphis in 1997.

College players aren't often welcomed back so fondly after they transfer. But most players aren't Wilson, who was a fan favorite for his two seasons at Arkansas because of his energy and charismatic personality.

A lightly-utilized player on the Razorbacks' national runner-up team a season ago, Wilson transferred to ORU to play his final season via the NCAA's graduate transfer rule.

"You know, it was really pretty mutual," Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said prior to the game of Wilson's decision to transfer. "I did not ask him to leave, obviously. He could have come back. He felt like that we didn’t have plans to use him as a starter. He didn’t want to be a utility guy.

"At the same time, he’s 23 years old, wants to play every day his last year. I don’t blame him. When he left I actually called and met him after finals were over - it was right around Christmas - met him in the parking lot here at Baum. We talked and hugged and I thanked him for everything he had done for our program the last couple of years. I felt good. I respect Hunter. He works hard and he wants to win as bad as anybody. He’s had a pretty good year over there."

Wilson's good year continued Tuesday when he went 2-for-5, bringing his season batting average to .308. He is slugging .430, has an on-base percentage of .375 and has 20 RBI for the Golden Eagles (14-16).

Wilson hit a two-run home run in the eighth inning against the Razorbacks to pull ORU within 11-8 before Arkansas pulled away in the bottom of the inning. It was the fourth home run in his four-year Division I career that has spanned three colleges.

He began his career at Stephen F. Austin in 2015 - a season in which he started in a game at Arkansas - and played his sophomore season in junior college.

Wilson's home run Tuesday was a no-doubter that cleared the opposing bullpen in right field. It was likely his last at-bat at his old home stadium, and Wilson added a bat flip for good measure.



"You know, nothing surprises me with Hunter," Van Horn said with a chuckle after the game. "He's a good player, older player who has been around now. I'm happy for him that he's having success there."

Arkansas recorded 14 hits in the win over ORU and Razorbacks routinely were at second base where Wilson was playing defensively. In almost every instance he walked over and engaged the base runner with a handshake, a hug or a pat on the back.

True to his personality, he also had some jokes to tell.

"I got to talk to him a little bit," said Arkansas shortstop Casey Martin, who was 4-for-5 with two doubles and also stole second base. "I think the first thing he said to me was, 'Man, smelling your (uniform's laundry) detergent really makes me miss it.' I thought it was kind of weird, but he definitely misses it here. I know that."

After the game ended, Wilson stood at the back of the ORU handshake line and embraced all of his former teammates, then walked over to the stands and began taking pictures with fans.

"I miss them as much as they miss me," Wilson said. "This opportunity doesn't come very often. I was thankful to be able to do the things I did tonight. We didn't win, but our team played hard and I was grateful for the competition we had."

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