Listening to headed to pro baseball Heston Kjerstad and Casey Martin praise Arkansas Coach Dave Van Horn underscores how fortunate the Razorbacks baseball program is for 50 years of great coaching on and off the field.
Hall of Fame Coach Norm DeBriyn, 1970-2002, built the program from an independent playing in the old Fairgrounds and then an American Legion Field to Southwest Conference champions at George Cole Field and SEC champions at Baum (now Baum-Walker) Stadium.
Along the way Norm took Arkansas to its first four College World Series, one a national runner-up.
More importantly DeBriyn so impacted lives his old players from anywhere and everywhere still flock to Fayetteville to see him.
Three, Tim Lollar, Johnny Ray and Kevin McReynolds while still Major Leaguers in 1985, and their agent, Little Rock Catholic grad Tom Selakovich, gave back with funding to help light the old George Cole Field.
Van Horn, DeBriyn’s 1982 second baseman and 1985-87 graduate assistant coach before head coaching Texarkana College, Central Missouri State, Northwestern (La.) State and Nebraska; has coached the Razorbacks since 2003. He’s piloted five SEC West championship teams with one SEC Overall co-championship and six Razorbacks teams to the College World Series including the 2018 national runner-up.
Most importantly is the impact he’s made on players’ lives.
Kjerstad and Martin described it after Kjerstad Wednesday went to the Baltimore Orioles in the first round’s second pick of the entire Major League draft and Martin Thursday was third-round drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies.
“He took such good care of me,” Kjerstad of Amarillo, Texas. “Whether it was helping me reach new levels or with whatever I needed, he was always there. He’s a father figure for all of us who who were away from home. There is no other college coach I would have ever wanted to play for than Dave Van Horn.”
Martin of Lonoke expressed equal gratitude.
“He texted me “congrats,” Martin said. “I said, ‘Just want to thank you for all the opportunities and just never forget that you are the reason I’m here. You took a chance on me and gave me tons of opportunities to grow as a player, but also as a person and I’ll always be grateful for that’. He’s definitely a father figure. He’s more worried about what you’re doing in your free time and in school than on the field. That’s a true father right there.”