The Arkansas baseball team will have a different look in 2014 for many reasons. One of them is the large number of players from the KFSM viewing area.
Both Jalen Beeks and Chris Oliver are expected to contend to be in the starting pitching rotation. They were once bitter rivals in high school. Beeks is from Prairie Grove. Oliver is from Farmington.
“It's crazy that we are both here right now,” said Beeks. “We're good friends competing on the field together. It's just great to be here with him.”
“To be on the same pitching staff with him now is weird,” said Oliver. “It's a good weird. I like it.”
Oliver grew up playing with Heritage catcher Blake Baxendale.
“Now that we are on the same team, it's an awesome feeling,” said Baxendale. “I don't have to try and call pitches to get these hitters out or hit off them. I'm glad we're on the same team.”
Tyler Spoon is from Van Buren and arguably the team’s best hitter. He and Baxendale played on a team together when they were nine years old.
“Some of the best players in the state and the country are here now,” said Tyler Spoon. “It's a cool experience and just fun, honestly. “
Joining those local Diamond Hogs is freshman Carson Shaddy from Fayetteville. It was only nine months ago Shaddy was hoisting a state championship trophy at Baum Stadium. Now, he's back on the same field, trying to help make the Hogs a better team.
“Coming from watching every game in the stands and then just being in the locker room, it’s a real blessing,” said Shaddy. “I remember walking in here some times and seeing all the names. Getting to see my name on a locker is a lifelong dream.”
Arkansas begins the season Friday at 3 p.m. at home against Appalachian State.