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Van Horn on maintenance issues with all-grass, Kjerstad’s big year, more

Dave Van Horn on Halftime on Tuesday with Phil Elson and Matt Jenkins talking about the “nightmare” maintaining grass at Baum-Walker, the reduced MLB draft and Heston Kjerstad.

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Arkansas is one of the rare college baseball facilities with all natural grass but Dave Van Horn said Tuesday he might not be that opposed to putting in some of the fake stuff.

“It’s more just a maintenance nightmare,” he said Tuesday with Phil Elson and Matt Jenkins (Halftime) on ESPN Arkansas. “For what we do I would almost like to have some of the synthetic turf around home plate and in the foul areas. It is difficult sometimes.”

That may come as a little bit of a surprise to some Razorback fans.

“I’m in the middle on it, really,” he said. “In fall ball and early in the year we tear up the field so bad. We’re trying to baby that grass and it’s kind of a pain, bot be honest with you.”

That was why former athletics director Frank Broyles loved the fake grass, especially in the winters in Northwest Arkansas that can be harsh at times, especially with natural turf.

Broyles put Astro-Turf down in 1969 and in just a few years had one of the longest straight runs of the fake stuff from the North End Zone facility down to George Cole Field.

Changes in MLB draft affecting college baseball

Van Horn didn’t really have enough time to go into a lot of detail on the announcement last week the Major League Baseball Draft would be shortened to just five rounds, but he knows some players might be coming back he didn’t really expect.

Naturally, he’s in favor of players staying in college longer, especially if they are not chosen high and he’s realistic about the financial part of it.

“If I was a parent I’d take no less than $2 million to buy my kid out of college,” Van Horn said. “The goal is to make it to the big leagues and stick.”

The signing bonuses if you’re picked higher are a false promise. Many don’t realize the best-case scenario is 40 percent of that is gone before they get it (for taxes), then the agent’s part and that $400,000 suddenly turns to about $250,000 … if they are lucky.

The change this year will have some players back in school that would have normally been gone.

“It’s going to make college baseball a little bit older for a year or two,” Van Horn said. “It’s going to get a few really good players to skip pro ball and go to college. It’s so much better for the kids that don’t get to the big leagues and don’t get their degrees.”

The Hogs’ Heston Kjerstad and Casey Martin will probably be picked high and gone. Catcher Casey Opitz might be on the bubble.

Kjerstad’s missed chance at big season

Van Horn knows Kjerstad won’t be back, but was looking forward to him putting up some monster numbers the way things were shaping up before getting cancelled in mid-March.

“He would have been one of three invited to Golden Spike awards,” he said about the top award in college baseball.

It was a hot start as Kjerstad was living up to all the pre-season hype and expectations as the original schedule had them heading to Knoxville on Wednesday for the final regular-season series.

“If we were heading to Tennessee tomorrow Heston would have close to mid-20’s in home runs and be hitting around .370,” Van Horn said. “He wore it out and I don’t think he was even hot.”

That was based in large part of Kjerstad’s work in developing his game.

“He’d be there on the weekends and working later, more on speed and athleticism,” Van Horn said.

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