Ob­ser­va­tions At Ra­zor­back Base­ball

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - OPINION - David Wil­son Learn­ing Ev­ery Day

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.