Arkansas duo makes unexpected return to college diamond

Posted: January 31, 2018 at 1 a.m.

Arkansas left fielder Luke Bonfield (17) is congratulated at the plate by third baseman Carson Shaddy Friday, March 17, 2017, after hitting a 2-run home run scoring Chad Spanberger during the first inning against Mississippi State at Baum Stadium in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- When you've bid your last good-byes it can be hard again to say hello.

So Arkansas baseball coach Dave Van Horn and presumed seniors-not-to-be Luke Bonfield and Carson Shaddy made it easy for each other last June as they unexpectedly returned for this Razorbacks season.

Like most very good collegiate baseball players from a major league draft eligible junior class, left fielder-DH Bonfield and second baseman Shaddy presumed they would be selected in the 2017 June draft the week after the Razorbacks concluded a resurgent 45-19 season after a dismal 26-29 mark the season before.

Van Horn presumed it, too. Wishing them good-bye and good luck like he does all those who have given their all to his Razorbacks and move on trying to move up professionally, Van Horn had recruited that prior fall and spring without factoring their 2018 return.

But as they went undrafted into day three, it dawned on Bonfield and Shaddy they likely wouldn't be drafted and how much they craved one more Razorbacks year even if they became very late day draftees.

"Carson called me during the third day and said, 'I'm not signing. I'm coming back," Van Horn said during last Saturday's Media Day. "And then Luke the same way. He said, 'Coach, I'm not going out even if I get drafted. I'm going to come back and have a great senior year.'"

Van Horn was pleased yet a mite skeptical.

Would those good kids so unselfishly persevere lettering through ups and downs the last three years return as good kids or sulky seniors miffed they had gone undrafted?

"I just wanted face to face to talk about being a senior with a little disappointment going on and make sure they really wanted to be back and give 100 percent gung-ho," Van Horn said. "And they have. It's great to have these guys back. They bring a lot of maturity."

Maturity and maybe even a social security card for Fayetteville's Shaddy, a rare baseball fifth-year senior having redshirted his initial freshman year.

"I feel like I'm Grandpa Bonfield or something and that would make him Great Grandpa," Bonfield said, laughing and gesturing to Shaddy nearby. "Actually this is the youngest I've felt since I was a freshman. This team is keeping me young."

They return as old guys helping the new teammates joining them and being helped by the new.

Nate Thompson, Arkansas' new hitting coach, was hired away from Missouri State last summer upon Arkansas assistant Tony Vitello advancing to head coach Tennessee.

"I've changed my swing a lot with Coach Thompson and getting behind the baseball," Shaddy said. "I feel very confident."

The new guy says those old guys help immensely.

"It's awesome to have them back with their experience and their leadership," Thompson said. "They've been through the battles and have a great perspective. They can really help the young guys keep their heads on straight because they've seen it all."

Sports on 01/31/2018