Razorback baseball coach Dave Van Horn traveled to the North Little Rock Downtown Tip Off Club luncheon on Monday at the Wyndham Riverfront Hotel.
Van Horn is the head baseball coach at the University of Arkansas, a position he accepted in 2003. Van Horn has coached the Razorback baseball team to almost 600 victories since he began coaching in Fayetteville. He was awarded SEC Coach of the Year in 2004.
“Baseball can teach you a lot about life; the mentally strong survive in this game and that is a fact,” Van Horn said.
Van Horn has great expectations for the Razorbacks this season, as does NLR mayor, Joe Smith.
“It was really special to have Dave Van Horn with us for our luncheon,” NLR Mayor Joe Smith said. “I am a former baseball player myself, so it was extra special for me specifically. I think he is a great coach, and I am fired up for the season! I think he will take us to the College World Series this year.”
The Downtown Tip Off Club is under the North Little Rock Parks and Recreation. Sponsors for the club include: Crews & Associates; Mainstream Technologies; Corky’s Ribs and BBQ; North Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau; and Curtis Stout.
“The city of North Little Rock is proud to sponsor the Downtown Tip Off Club through Parks and Recreation,” Smith said.
Several club luncheons are held each week during basketball season; each meeting features a keynote speaker from areas throughout the state. This season’s future and past speakers include: Mike Anderson, Joe Foley, Todd Day, Russ Pennell, Sandra Rushing, Wes Flanigan, Dave Van Horn, Terry Mohajir and Pat Bradley.
“The Downtown Tip Off Club is a weekly luncheon that focuses on college basketball,” North Little Rock Parks and Recreation Office Assistant Senior Telina Lane said. “Each week we have a different speaker and honor local high school athletes by naming a male and female player of the week.”
While the luncheons are entertaining for guests; the true purpose behind the meetings are to make an impact in the community, through the One Heart Playground fundraising efforts.
“While guests come to hear various speakers, they are also giving back to their community,” Lane said. “All funds raised from the Tip Off Club goes towards One Heart Playground, an inclusive playground in Burns Park.”
At this week’s luncheon Van Horn briefly spoke about current players; upcoming recruits; the extreme difficulty of the upcoming 2018 season schedule; academics; preparing his players for professional baseball; and potential plans for expansion of Baum Stadium.
Fans should anticipate a difficult season; but despite the challenging schedule, Van Horn has genuine expectations for success this season.
“Our schedule is out of control,” Van Horn said. “I’ve made the comment many times, that this is the toughest schedule that we’ve ever played here, since I’ve been here, by far! If it doesn’t go real good for us here and there, don’t give up on us. Our schedule is going to beat us up a little bit.”
Although the schedule will prove to be difficult, Van Horn believes there could be major success for his team this year.
“Our schedule is built that if we win enough games, we could be a big time seed, a top 8 seed,” Van Horn said. “That means that we get to stay home the whole time if we are good enough to do that; and make it to the World Series. Hopefully we will do that.”
During the upcoming season, about half of the players listed on the roster will be freshmen, something that Van Horn is excited about.
“We’ve got some good freshmen in here. We have 14 freshman on the roster; and I like all of them,” Van Horn said. “Someone asked me how many of the new guys that I think will play pro ball, and I said about 10 to 12 of them will play pro ball.”
College baseball coaches and fans have in recent years witnessed a rise in the popularity of the sport.
“Many people, who know the game, their opinions are, that they feel that college baseball is at an all-time high in popularity right now,” Van Horn said. “I think there are a few reasons for it; a lot of the administrations have made a lot of commitment to their program. Such as, building facilities, paying coaches, the way they travel, I could go on and on.”
Van Horn is impressed by the progress of the baseball facility advancements that schools in the SEC are making. The administration, not only at Arkansas, but at other schools across the SEC as well, have committed to ensuring that the baseball programs are successful.
“It’s great for our league, its great to recruit to our league, saying you’re going to play in these venues,” Van Horn said. “I really feel like the administrations have stepped up, and it is making it easier for us to recruit, to say, hey, do you want to play in the best league in the country?”
During Monday’s luncheon, two high school basketball players were named as the Downtown Tip Off Club players of the week. C.J. White, a senior at Parkview High School and Mattie Hatcher, a junior at Pulaski Academy were the selected winners this week.
“I am definitely very thankful to have been chosen for this award,” White said. “I want to thank God and I am thankful for everyone who made this possible.”
Hatcher shared White’s excitement when she was also named player of the week.
“I am very excited to win player of the week,” Hatcher said. “My brother was chosen during football season and it was awesome being picked for basketball.”
For more information on how to get involved with the Downtown Tip Off Club, call 791-8543.