FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Nate Thompson didn’t waste a single day getting to work at his new job at Arkansas.
The Arkansas assistant baseball coach signed his contract and hit the road. Thompson was off to recruit before spending more than a day or two in Fayetteville. He met with the Razorbacks media Wednesday morning for the first time.
“Arkansas has always been a place that I’ve thought a lot of,” Thompson said. “Because of coach Van Horn and obviously the success and tradition of the program and the fan base. I loved coming here and competing as an opponent. But I’m really excited about calling this home now.”
Thompson, 34, was hired June 16, just over a week after the man he replaced, Tony Vitello, left. He was busy when Vitello left for the head coach job at Tennessee, though. At the exact moment. Thompson was an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for Missouri State. The Bears were trying to win the Fort Worth Super Regional. And this just days after Missouri State had eliminated Arkansas from the NCAA Tournament.
When Missouri State lost, Dave Van Horn waited a day or two and reached out to Bears coach Keith Guttin.
“I sent him a text: ‘Please call me.’ I mentioned to him what I wanted to talk to him about. … Didn’t do it right after the game. I think it was the first night of the draft and Keith called me later that night. Basically, his word was ‘Hey, i get it.’ He had nothing but good things to say about Nate.”
Thompson will reprise his role at Missouri State and the role Vitello had. He will organize the recruiting, most of it, and work with hitters and outfielders.
Knight told Van Horn he’ll be back
Technically there has been no word on whether Blaine Knight will officially return to school or go pro. But Van Horn made clear what everyone figured.
Knight told his coach he would be back and that’s good enough, Van Horn said.
Knight was taken in the 29th round of the draft, far behind his talent level, which suggested he was a top-three-round pick. Van Horn said Knight stuck to his guns, demanded X-amount of dollars and when teams didn’t match the figure, Knight was more than happy to head back to Arkansas.
“He has a great opportunity to come back bigger, stronger and better,” Van Horn said. “You can see his name picked the first couple hours of that draft next summer.”
Knight had 96 strikeouts in 90 2/3 innings with a 3.28 earned-run average for Arkansas this past year.
Bonfield’s, Shaddy’s return shrinks recruiting class
That’s a good thing.
Bonfield, a senior outfielder, and Shaddy, a senior second baseman, are established, All-SEC-type hitters. Their return to Arkansas was unexpected to both them and the public. And for a while, Van Horn said, neither were happy with not being taken in the draft.
But that quickly faded. The two see what the Razorbacks can accomplish in 2018 and are hopeful to lead the team. Their returns, however, meant there were fewer spots for some of the incoming signees.
The class has been cut in about half. Some guys who signed have gone pro, but more are going the junior-college route. No playing time in the immediate in Fayetteville.
Recruits are expected to be on campus include:
- RHP/SS Bryce Bonnin
- OF Cole Turney
- RHP Jackson Rutledge
- OF Heston Kjerstad
- MI Casey Martin
- LHP Hunter Milligan
- RHP Zebulon Vermillion
- RHP Kole Ramage
- C/MI Casey Opitz
- RHP Caleb Bolden
- SS Easton Murrell
Others will join them, as well, though it was unclear which of the others were going the junior-college route.