With football recruiting in full swing, and the basketball team relevant once again, Dave Van Horn’s Diamond Hogs quietly get back to work today with their first practice of the season.
Earlier in the week, Baseball America — a publication that typically gives the Hogs less credit than they’ve earned — surprisingly ranked Arkansas #4 in their 2012 Preseason Poll. The Hogs were one of six SEC teams ranked in the top 11. On Thursday, they found themselves sitting at #8 in the recently released USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll.
Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be previewing the Diamond Hogs in depth — position by position — as they get ready to start what could be a championship season. But one thing that has us scratching our heads a bit was the recent decision to move in the fences at Baum Stadium.
Our good friend UnderHog shared some photos with us this week showing the work going on at Baum to bring in the right field fence a reported 10 feet.
It appears from his photo that reducing the fence 10 feet in the power alley (currently 375) might translate into a bit more than that around the area near the visitors bullpen.
The only reason we raise our eyebrows at the change is due to the fact that Van Horn and pitching coach Dave Jorn have assembled what could be one of the greatest pitching staffs in school history. Why would they offset that advantage by making it easier for the other side to hit home runs?
Van Horn argues that other schools are using the current Baum Stadium dimensions, coupled with the brisk southerly winds, against the Hogs in recruiting.
“In some games it will help us and in some games it will hurt us, but it will do the same to the other team,” Van Horn said. “This will show left-handed hitters we have them in mind.”
Current Razorback switch hitter Dominic Ficociello (.335, 4HR, 50 RBIs in 2011) might be the one player who will benefit most from the move. Some of Dom’s team-high 15 doubles last year will definitely be home runs this season.
Keep a close eye on this change and the resulting effects as the Hogs get underway in 2012. The Razorbacks host Villanova for a three-game series beginning February 17th.