When the original plans for a baseball performance center at Baum Stadium were being discussed the word was a tunnel would go from the proposed facility to the first base dugout. The players would be able to dress for games in their new locker room and walk to the dugout without entering the stands.
Dave Van Horn wasn’t exactly sure how this would be accomplished but he told the Pig Trail Nation that he assumed the tunnel would run under the playing field along the first base line. As such it would have to be constructed in the off season. He wasn’t sure how that might affect Fall Ball in 2020.
As the word circulated that the home team dugout might be moved from third base to the first base side, some fans who had coveted seats behind that dugout began to ask questions. Would they be allowed to exchange those seats with those currently sitting behind the first base dugout?
Then came word that there might not be a tunnel at all. If so the team would continue to use its current locker room on game days. A tunnel under a part of the third base concourse connects that locker room to the Razorbacks’ dugout. Both football and basketball have separate locker rooms for practice and game days. So the possible change seemed logical.
Fast forward to this week when the Razorback athletics department announced more details of the J.B. and Johnnell Hunt Family Baseball Development Center. Included was news of a tunnel connecting the facility, currently under construction, to the first base dugout. A quick trip to the construction site revealed that the tunnel was not being constructed under the field after all but under the first base concourse, the walkway of which is currently being demolished from the south end to the first base dugout.
Kendall Rogers, the managing editor of D-1 Baseball and one of the most knowledgeable college baseball analysts around said nothing surprises him these days when it comes to updates at Baum- Walker Stadium.
“Every couple of years they’re building something,” Rogers told the Pig Trail Nation. “It is the gold standard. It’s all there and this is the next piece for those guys. Arkansas and Mississippi State just keep making improvements to their stadiums. It says everything about their commitment to college baseball. “
For years one of Dave Van Horn’s only recruiting issues was the cold weather that often limits outdoor workouts in the preseason period during January’s and February’s in Northwest Arkansas. SEC West Rivals like, LSU, Ole Miss, Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi State would typically get in more preseason practice time than Arkansas which would play catch up once the season began.
That all changed with the construction of the Fowler Family Baseball and Track Indoor Training Center. That facility provides approximately 52,000 square feet of climate-controlled practice space, including a full size practice infield, throwing area, batting areas and ancillary team spaces.
With the addition of the new team development center more indoor practice areas will be available in the form of a student-athlete pitching and development lab and an in-venue batting tunnel.
Rogers admits that with the expansive indoor practice facilities at Baum-Walker soon to be further improved, Arkansas Baseball’s cold weather issues will have been greatly reduced. “They continue to do some things facilities-wize to address those problems but I think Arkansas is such an elite program, if I’m a recruit, I don’t care if it’s cold or not,” Rogers affirmed. “I’m still going there.”
With the cancellation of much of the 2020 college baseball season most fans won’t get an up close look at the Hunt family facility, which is going up on the southwest side of the stadium, until the 2021 season. By that time the latest addition to Baum-Walker will be nearing completion. It is scheduled to open in the summer of next year.