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 Heisman Trophy.
Arkansas signs catcher transfer from San Francisco
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas has added a graduate-transfer catcher for the 2021 baseball season.
Robert Emery (6-0, 215 pounds) has signed a letter of intent to play for the Razorbacks. Emery spent four seasons at the University of San Francisco in his hometown after playing for Dartmouth as a freshman.
Emery earned a sixth and final season of eligibility when the NCAA restored a blanket year of eligibility to baseball players whose 2020 season was cut short by the covid-19 pandemic. He will be immediately eligible at Arkansas.
Emery grew up around the San Francisco program. In 2010, now-Arkansas pitching coach Matt Hobbs coached the Dons, and Hobbs recruited Emery this year when he put his name in the NCAA's transfer portal.
"I didn't know him well, but I knew him a little bit because he had coached at the University of San Francisco when I was there around the program in (junior) high school," Emery said. "I knew his reputation and I knew Arkansas has an amazing reputation for developing players, facilities - across the board having a culture as a winning program. It was something I was really interested in from that first phone call."
Emery led San Francisco with a .381 batting average before this year’s season was cut short and had a hit in the Dons’ final 13 games. His abbreviated season included a two-home run game against California on March 6, and he finished the year with 4 doubles and 9 RBI.
Defensively, Emery threw out three base runners in eight stolen base attempts in 2020, and had a perfect fielding percentage the past two seasons.
In 2019, Emery was second-team All-West Coast Conference when he batted .320 with 5 home runs, 16 doubles and 40 RBI.
He was second-team All-Ivy League in 2016 as a freshman at Dartmouth with a .275 batting average and 18 RBI. He redshirted his first season at San Francisco and started nine games as a backup in 2018.
It was as a late replacement at the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2018 that Emery began playing at a high level, propelling him to his all-conference season.
"The growth, I think you can see it in the stats I've put up," Emery said. "I got to go out to the Cape for the playoffs at the end of my sophomore summer and learned a lot about myself and what the best players in the country were doing.
"I guess the self-knowledge and understanding who I am as a player has come a little later for me, but as you can see over the past two years I've kind of settled into my process and what I want to do as a player, and I've had success doing it."
If Arkansas loses its starting catcher Casey Opitz to the MLB Draft, Emery would add valuable experience for the Razorbacks behind the plate. Opitz is rated the No. 101 prospect by Baseball America in the upcoming draft that will include only 160 selections.
Arkansas had two freshman catchers, Cason Tollett and Dominic Tamez, on its roster this season. Dylan Leach, a junior high school catcher from Carthage, Texas, who is committed to the Razorbacks, has said he plans to enroll early and play at Arkansas in 2021.
Emery, who will turn 24 in October, will come to Arkansas with a master's degree in entrepreneurship and innovation. He will pursue a second master's in operational management while in Fayetteville.
"Honestly I've heard great things about the culture and about the team there at Arkansas," Emery said. "I just want to get in there and get lockstep as quickly as possible, get on the same page with them, with Coach Hobbs and really get to work with the pitchers and learn what makes guys tick.
"At 24, most guys are expected to be in pro ball by now, but I look at it kind of as the best of both worlds. Yeah, I'm still in college and, yeah, I'm getting another master's degree, but you're training like a big leaguer, getting treated like a big leaguer, and really it's as professional of a setting as you can imagine still in the college game."
Emery is the third graduate transfer to commit to the Razorbacks this offseason, joining pitchers Lael Lockhart of Houston and Issac Bracken of Northern Colorado. Arkansas has also signed Brady Slavens, an infielder who led junior college baseball in home runs and RBI this year at Johnson County (Kan.) Community College after beginning his career at Wichita State.
CORRECTION: Emery batted .381 during the 2020 season at San Francisco. An earlier batting average of .449 was what Emery hit during his 13-game hit streak.
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