A Helluva Knight For The Hogs

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — “I don’t care what anybody else is the SEC says, this place is the bomb,” said the drunken student to me out in the Arkansas left field picnic area known as the Hog Pen.

Look at this place,” he sputtered, slightly coherently. “There’s more fans out here than there are fans in the stands. More fans than any stadium anywhere.”

I have to say, Baum Stadium at the University of Arkansas has got to be one of my favorite places in the country to catch a college baseball game. Not just because it’s big time environment with rabid fans and a good baseball program with years of success behind it. But because it’s a “happening.”

What that drunken Razorback student was trying to spew to me was that Arkansas baseball home games are a happening. They are more than just a mere contest between two teams. They are woven into the soul-filled fabric of the entire state.

Oh sure, there are bigger stadiums (a few), there are bigger fan bases, there are louder cheers and there are more whistles and bells at other college baseball venues.

But at Arkansas, there may not be a more fervent following in the country. It’s not just that the grandstands are filled to the rim when a big time opponent like LSU comes to town, it’s the massive amount of spillover that you see beyond the fence and the fans that are hanging on every pitch. Before my first visit to Baum Stadium two years ago, everybody told me about how nice the stadium was and how good of a following the baseball program has. Nobody told me about the endless rows and rows of fans out beyond the left field fence. It seems to go on forever.

The Hog Pen was rocking tonight in Fayetteville.

I’ve seen the outfield crowds on TV during the Regionals plenty of times. I’ve seen the smoke from the barbecues and even the beer cans in the hands of the fans. But it took until I got to Fayetteville in person for me to realize that this left field picnic area is more big league than anything you see on the field or in the facilities. The Hog Pen is a wild place. Belligerence, barbecues, beers, booze, boos and boisterousness. This place has it all.

And the main grandstand ain’t all that far behind either. These fans make this a special place.


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