FAYETTEVILLE — Many times Arkansas opens the baseball season at home against an opponent they should have a fairly easy time against, but not this season.
The Hogs will open the season in Arlington, Texas, at Globe Life Field against Texas Tech and then follow on consecutive days with Texas and TCU. Second baseman Robert Moore likes the idea of opening the season in this kind of setting.
“As competitors, there’s no other way you’d want it to go,” Moore said. “Every day you step on the field you always try to have more fun than the other player that’s out there and be the best at your position, try to do something every single game to hep the team win, try to score every time you come to the plate, try to win one pitch at a time, one inning at a time and one game at a time, one series at a time. Don’t look further down the schedule than the team that’s in front of you, and no matter who we play this group of guys will come out and give our best effort. We’ve had a year to really improve our skills and improve our chemistry as a team, so no matter who we play we’re going to give our best effort.”
Moore started all 16 games last season. He hit two home runs, knocked in 17 runs while hitting .317. The middle of Arkansas’ infield will have Jalen Battles at shortstop along with Moore at second. The two are working together seemingly very well.
“Jalen is an unbelievable defender,” Moore said. “He’s very smooth, doesn’t miss ground balls in practice. He’s so in control with his body. He’s fun to be around, he smiles, he wants to learn, he gives good feeds, we work well together, he’s fun to be around and just a great teammate.”
Dave Van Horn had said he feels his team’s middle defense could be one of the strengths. Moore agrees.
“Going back to what I said about Jalen in practice, guys just don’t miss balls,” Moore said. “They take it very seriously. With (catcher) Casey (Opitz)and Jalen and (center fielder) Christian (Franklin), just watching those guys in practice and how their routines throughout the pandemic and all this time we had to prepare for this season has really changed a lot, just as far as how they take charge of their development defensively and how they put an emphasis on that. I think that’s why they’re so good at it.
“Christian, one thing he has been doing recently is taking groundballs at shortstop and throwing it across to first base to work on his accuracy, work on throwing it from different angles. It’s a drill that he heard Andruw Jones used to do, the great center fielder with the Braves back in the day. Just watching how guys prepare is the funnest part about all of this — just watching the pitchers prepare, watching the fielders prepare, watching the pitchers do PFPs and how that’s developed over the year. One thing about Peyton (Pallette) and Zeb (Vermillion) is a year ago, compared to now, their PFPs have been tremendously better, picking up the ball and throwing to bases, throwing to second base, pickoffs; our first and third basemen, watching them pick balls; our coach Phil and Bobby hit groundballs to everyone consistently throughout the year, it’s been so fun to watch guys prepare for the season.”
As far as his own defense. Moore is confident in it as well.
“Well, I always believe in myself,” Moore said. “If i didn’t believe in myself I wouldn’t be here. So whatever challenge is thrown at me this year, I feel like I have prepared myself for physically, mentally, spiritually, so I feel like I’m ready to go.”
Last year, Moore came in as a very young freshman. He feels the year already in the program has served him well.
“I think a little bit last year I was a little naive to everything,” Moore said. “Just going through practice and everything, I didn’t really have a good feel for a lot of stuff, so this year I’ve learned a lot more about the Razorbacks what it’s like to be a Razorback, how to carry yourself in the locker room, on the field, how to interact with players, how to interact with coaches. The more you’re in your situation, the more you’re around people, the more comfortable you get. But I’ve always believed in myself, always believed in the people around me, and I think that’s what makes you a great teammate. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. If you think you can’t, you’re probably right.”
Moore and the Razorbacks have had to practice inside a lot lately due to the weather in Fayetteville.
“Honestly very thankful to the Fowlers and everyone who put money into this facility so we can have the opportunity to work out inside,” Moore said. “Very thankful for all these people who have left Arkansas better than they found it, so we can as the 2021 team can experience such great facilities. We’re about to move into another great facility so we can have the opportunity to develop when the weather (prohibits) us from being outside. We get better inside, believe it or not. Our pitchers are still able to throw, defensively we’re still able to take groundballs, still able to hit, we can have scrimmages. It’s such a blessing, truthfully, to be able to develop no matter what the weather or circumstances are.”
College baseball will now allow a runner on second base in extra innings. Moore offered up his thoughts on that.
“As a baseball player you have to know how to play in that situation,” Moore said. “All situations that are presented to you as a baseball player are fun and exciting. You’ve got to find a way to get the job done, and each situation brings a new challenge. We work a lot on situations like that, truthfully, in practice, whether on defense or offense, advancing the runner, holding runners when you’re on defense, pitchers delivering the ball and being quick to home plate. It’s all stuff we talk about and it’s the game that we’ve played for such a long time, so truthfully whether they start with no one on base or a runner on second, or bases loaded, whatever the situation is we’re good enough — everyone in that locker room — to get the job done.”
Each of the three games in Arlington will start at 7 p.m.