Van Horn no stranger to opposing coaches in Omaha
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OMAHA, Neb. — The other three SEC teams may be on the other side, but that doesn’t mean Dave Van Horn isn’t familiar with the head coaches on Arkansas’ side of the College World Series bracket.
That was evident Friday afternoon when he sat down with Michigan’s Erik Bakich, Texas Tech’s Tim Tadlock and Florida State’s Mike Martin for an interview session during media day Friday afternoon at TD Ameritrade Park.
It was more of a show than press conference with the coaches - which range from a 41-year-old (Bakich) to 40-year veteran (Martin) - cracking jokes and sharing stories for nearly 50 minutes.
One theme that kept coming up throughout that time was Van Horn’s connections to the other three coaches.
The most obvious was probably with Martin, as Arkansas and Florida State are no strangers to playing in the postseason. The Razorbacks have won all five meetings, knocking off the Seminoles in the 1985 NCAA South II Regional - Van Horn’s first season as a graduate assistant - and then sweeping them in the 2004 and 2009 super regionals.
When asked about his memories of 2004, which was played at Baum-Walker Stadium, Martin held his arms straight out, wiggled his fingers and said, “Wooooo,” seemingly in an effort to replicate the Hog Call.
That prompted a laugh from Van Horn, who told him, “We can work on that later.”
“It was really an eye-opening experience when we went down there in ’04,” Martin said. “Fans are just tremendous, the facilities are outstanding.”
Martin started to say he hoped to never have to play there again, but remembering that he is set to retire after this season, changed course and joked that he “ain’t going back down there again.”
The two teams will face off again Saturday and their previous matchups led Van Horn to pay Florida State the ultimate compliment earlier this week.
“I just remember it felt like we were playing an SEC team, like it was another team in the league,” Van Horn said. “Big, physical, fast, great arms and a lot of guys that just weren’t scared. You could just tell.”
As far as Tadlock is concerned, Van Horn has always felt a connection with him because of their common background as junior college coaches in Texas.
His second year as a player at Hill C.C. was Van Horn’s first as a head coach at Texarkana C.C. and his first year as an assistant at Hill C.C. was Van Horn’s final season at Texarkana. They were both asked about their experiences at that level Friday afternoon and shared similar stories.
“Right off the bat, you’ve got to go look people in the eye and get them to come play for you because you’ve got a baseball field and you’re going to ask them to drag the field, you’re going to ask them to mow the field,” Tadlock said. “It, probably more than anything else, teaches you to not shy away from getting good players, wherever you are.”
By far the youngest coach in the group, Bakich was an assistant coach at Vanderbilt from 2003-2009. During that time, the Razorbacks had an 11-10 edge over the Commodores.
Where Bakich - who still looks like he could play - left his mark in Van Horn’s memory, though, was in pregame warmups.
“I was really impressed at how strong he was because he hit fungo with one hand,” Van Horn said with a smile. “It was amazing. I’ll never forget that. It was really impressive.”
Michigan and Texas Tech play the opening game of the College World Series at 1 p.m. Saturday, followed by Arkansas and Florida State at 6 p.m.