Two former Arkansas Razorbacks will coach preseason conference favorites today at Baum Stadium.
The No. 6 Razorbacks are picked to win the SEC West under 16th-year Coach Dave Van Horn, while Bucknell is the preseason favorite in the Patriot League under sixth-year Coach Scott Heather, who spent two years as a pitcher and another season as a student assistant coach at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville in the late 1990s.
Heather will be the second former Arkansas player to bring a team to Fayetteville as an opposing head coach. Van Horn's Nebraska team beat the Razorbacks twice at Baum Stadium in 2000.
Heather, who is married to the former Emily Gross of Fort Smith, said he expects to see several family members, friends and acquaintances this weekend. He said it will be his first trip to Baum since the early 2000s when he was an assistant coach at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith when it was known as Westark Community College.
"Sometimes you lose track of people, so it'll be great to see a bunch of people and a bunch of guys from Westark that I coached are planning on coming up," Heather said. "I'm just excited to play in that atmosphere. I know it has continued to improve. It was pretty nice when I was there, but they continue to step it up facility wise."
Heather pitched for Norm DeBriyn at Arkansas from 1997-98 after transferring from Arizona Western Junior College, where he went 13-4 and was named most valuable player on a team that finished third at the NJCAA World Series in 1996.
Heather wasn't as successful at Arkansas. He went 3-2 with a 6.15 ERA in 52 2/3 innings in 1997, and had a 7.88 ERA in 8 innings in 1998.
"I didn't succeed as much on the field as I would have liked," Heather said, "but it was certainly a great experience and really challenging to pitch in that conference at that time.
"An opportunity to come in and play at that level is really what drove me to come to Arkansas -- to play in the best league in the country. I played for a great guy in Coach DeBriyn and lived with Marty, his son. I really enjoyed my time."
Heather returned to Fayetteville to assist DeBriyn in 1999, a season that produced the Razorbacks' first SEC championship. He later spent five seasons at UAFS, assisting Dale Harpenau.
In Fort Smith, Heather was part of a staff that helped develop several players who had key roles on some of Van Horn's early teams in Fayetteville, such as pitchers Jay Sawatski and Trey Holloway, and outfielder Craig Gentry, now in his 10th major league season as an outfielder for the Baltimore Orioles.
"Scott handled our pitching staff and was a large part of our recruiting process," said Harpenau, now head coach at Fort Smith Southside. "When you're at a junior college you wear many hats, and Scott did that and was very good at it.
"The time he spent with us at Westark, we were very successful and the development from the pitcher side was very good. It allowed a lot of kids to go on and further their careers at other institutions. As a pitcher, Scott was very thorough and committed to his craft, and that has translated over into the coaching profession."
Heather, who was Bucknell's pitching coach before being promoted in 2012, is in his 14th season overall at the small private school in Lewisburg, Penn. His 110 victories are second on the program's all-time list. Bucknell finished runner-up in the Patriot League last season and won the conference in 2014, when it lost to Arkansas in the NCAA Regional at Virginia.
"He's done a great job with their program, and when you look at it, it's an outstanding school --academically it's tough to get in there," Van Horn said. "Scott did a great job here and he's got a lot of Arkansas ties. I've played them before, and they are always competitive."
"Scott's always been a winner," Harpenau said. "He has worked tirelessly on the recruiting trail. It takes a special athlete to go to school and play baseball at Bucknell, and Scott has been able to find those kids and put that program in a very competitive light."
Sports on 02/16/2018
Print Headline: UA welcomes back old face in Heather