Observations At Razorback Baseball
Arkansas junior catcher Zack Plunkett was not in the starting lineup for the Arkansas Razorbacks in the first game of a doubleheader at home against Kentucky on March 17.
But he did make some noise as a pinch-hitter.
Plunkett is a product of Texas and played for two years at TCU before transferring to Arkansas in 2017.
He has seen a baseball crowd with plenty of TCU purple in it, but there was none of that at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville on March 17.
The crowd was mostly Razorback red, dotted in a few places with folks wearing Kentucky Wildcat blue. And because it was St. Patrick’s Day, there were several fans wearing green.
The Hogs dominated the first game, belting their way to a five-homer, 14-2 win.
One of those home runs came at the hands of Plunkett.
He led off in the bottom of the eighth inning with Arkansas leading 13-1 and when he connected with the ball he sent it soaring over the left field wall, putting Arkansas up 14-1 to complete their scoring for the game.
It was a nice exclamation mark towards the end of an impressive Razorback win.
But his home run isn’t what first got my attention. Heck, everyone was hitting home runs for Arkansas that day (five in the first game; five in the second).
No, what caught my eye was something in between the games.
About an hour after Plunkett’s homer he was involved in a special exchange — one of those interactions with young fans — that helps make baseball the great game that it is.
The teams were warming up for the second game of the double-header as the grounds crew worked on the infield.
With about 12 minutes to go until the first pitch of the second game, Plunkett made his way from left field, where the Hogs were warming up, back towards the dugout.
He jogged by the stands and several adoring youngsters were leaning over the wall extending their hands, perhaps wanting Plunkett to respond with a celebratory smack from his hand to theirs.
Plunkett took the baseball he had been throwing around and slapped it in to a baseball glove that one of the young men was holding out.
It looked like Plunkett intended to go on to the dugout without breaking stride, but others called to him for autographs and he came to a sudden stop.
He signed a couple before joining his teammates for the twilight part of the double-header.
The Arkansas offense came alive in that game too, powering their way to a 16-9 win over the Wildcats and completing a three-game sweep for the weekend.
Twenty years from now the boys who interacted with Plunkett between games might be able to tell you about the doubleheader and the scores for both games that day.
But more than likely they will remember their up-close-and-personal interaction with Plunkett as they leaned over the rail that separated the stands from the playing field.
For someone like me watching games like those on March 17, the players are seen as talented college students who are doing the best that they can; and they have their entire lives ahead of them.
In that respect, the college players are still kids themselves.
On the other hand, for a young 10-year-old fan, the players who compete on the field are demigods to be admired and emulated; bigger-than-life stars that any young person can aspire to be.
The dynamic is interesting. The young kids who are 10 years old want to be around the older kids who are 20. They want to talk to them, high five them and get their autographs.
They want to be recognized by them and to identify with their team.
I remember being a grade school student myself, being awe-struck if I were anywhere near an athlete who played on a big stage.
The 10-year-old fans at Baum Stadium that day could certainly get excited about a great display of offensive power in the form of a good home run show, but they probably got more excited about one of their heroes letting them into his world.
Even if it was just for a moment. DAVID WILSON, EDD, OF SPRINGDALE, IS A FORMER HIGH SCHOOL PRINCIPAL AND IS THE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR THE TRANSIT AND PARKING DEPARTMENT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS. HIS BOOK, LEARNING EVERY DAY,
IS AVAILABLE ON AMAZON. YOU MAY E-MAIL HIM AT DWNOTES@HOTMAIL.COM. THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHOR.