Matt Jones is the editor of the Hawgs Sports Network. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has a bachelor's and master's degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas.
Diamond Hogs draw a crowd in the offseason, too
Kaleb Kovach answers questions Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022, from his son, Isaac Kovach, 6, as they watch the University of Arkansas baseball team play the Texas Rangers Instructional League team at Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — Outfielders Ross Lovich and Ty Wilmsmeyer were taken back a bit on their first weekend scrimmaging with the Arkansas baseball team.
The senior transfers from Missouri looked surprised to see multiple reporters waiting to discuss their performances last Friday and Sunday afternoons.
Missouri’s program receives little media attention. Baseball is a different animal at Arkansas.
That will be evident Friday as the Razorbacks host their annual “Fall Classic” — a nighttime scrimmage that correlates with a big recruiting weekend for the baseball team. Baseball recruits will attend the scrimmage, then Arkansas’ football game against BYU on Saturday night.
More from WholeHogSports: Notable home dates on 2024 schedule
Based on past years, a crowd in the thousands is likely at Baum-Walker Stadium. Gates open at 5 p.m. and a first pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.
“This is unreal coming from playing at Mizzou,” Lovich said. “You’ve got fans showing up for scrimmages. It’s a pretty cool feeling to get to play in front of these fans.”
Open scrimmages have been a hallmark of Arkansas’ baseball program under 22nd-year coach Dave Van Horn. With the exception of the fall of 2020 when pandemic spacing protocols were in place, every practice has been open to the public.
“We’re not trying to hide anything in the fall,” Van Horn said. “We’re just running our practices and I don’t see other teams out here scouting us. I think our fans enjoy it.”
Friday’s scrimmage will likely be the best attended of the fall practice season because it is promoted, but nearly every off-season scrimmage draws a crowd. It isn’t uncommon to see a crowd measured in the hundreds at the ballpark on a pleasant weekend afternoon in September or October.
When Arkansas scrimmaged the Texas Rangers' instructional league players last October, estimated attendances were in excess of 3,000.
Contrast that to Missouri, which averaged 1,428 tickets sold to its games last season. The actual attendance was lower.
“I’d say we’d get 200 to 1,000,” Lovich said. “When we would play [Kansas] we’d get 2,500 or something in there, but not near as many as here.”
It's an indication of just how popular the sport has become at Arkansas under Van Horn. Drawing a crowd for a Friday night scrimmage in September has the potential to keep the program going strong.
“We feel like we’re going to have a really good crowd this weekend — [the temperature is] going to be in the low 70s the night before BYU,” Van Horn said. “We’re going to have a lot of recruits and their families, and we hope we have a great crowd. It’s a lot uncommitted kids coming in this weekend.”
More from WholeHogSports: Latest baseball coverage from Matt Jones
Van Horn likes how the crowds give a game-like feel to the scrimmages, in particular for new players to the program.
“I think it’s good for our players to play in front of some people, even if it’s 50 or 100,” Van Horn said. “It keeps them going a little bit. We’re going to have our days when they’re super tired out here because we’ve been lifting or school work is jumping on them, but for the most part they’re going to give a good effort with fans here.”
Arkansas pitcher Brady Tygart retired all three batters he faced during an 11-pitch outing last Friday with many people in attendance. He said afterward that well-attended scrimmages make the practice days more fun.
“I hate showing up to games and seeing empty seats,” Tygart said. “It’s a blessing to play at a place like this, especially when [some] teams in the conference can barely pull that during a home game.”
2023 Arkansas Baseball Fall Classic
WHEN Friday, 6 p.m.
WHERE Baum-Walker Stadium in Fayetteville
NOTABLE Attendance is free to the public. Lower-level seating is open. Suite areas will be closed. Concessions will be closed, but fans will be permitted to bring outside food and drinks into the stadium. Dogs will be allowed in the Hog Pen beyond the left-field wall. A number of promotions are planned, including a 2024 schedule poster, inning-by-inning raffles and a giveaway for tickets to Saturday's football game against BYU.
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.