TEXARKANA, Ark. — It's unlikely that 30 years ago Dave Van Horn would've dreamt he would be flying into Texarkana on a University of Arkansas charter jet.
But that's the reality.
Van Horn was the guest speaker at the annual Texarkana Razorback Club meeting Tuesday night, returning to where his collegiate coaching career began three decades ago and where he called home in the late 80s and early 90s.
Van Horn, who completed his 17th season as the head baseball coach for the Arkansas Razorbacks this spring with another trip to the College World Series, served as head coach for the defunct Texarkana College Bulldog program from 1989-1993.
"Texarkana was my first head coaching job, and I had the chance, basically, to get thrown in the fire," Van Horn said. "I really enjoyed it. Obviously, it was a learning experience for me, to be a head coach and running the program. It doesn't matter if it's high school, a summer program or a top-notch Division I program, you still have to figure out how to handle young men and get them to play hard for you. It definitely helped me for the next job."
Van Horn finished his tenure at TC with a 214-72 record before moving on to Central Missouri State, then Northwestern State. He landed in Nebraska in 1998, and he has been back in Fayetteville since 2003. He owns a career record of 1,274-623 in 29 seasons.
"I remember when I had the opportunity to come here, I jumped at it; I wanted the job bad," Van Horn said. "I knew this is a big time baseball town. High schools on both sides of the line, Pleasant Grove was good, and there was a lot of good places to recruit. I knew they loved baseball around here.
"There's a lot of memories about battling with the city over the upkeep of the ballpark, funny things. It was comical. I bought my own tractor to mow it."
Dave and his wife, Karen, had their first daughter born in Texarkana, he mentioned. And he said a lot of people in Texarkana have helped him not only kick start his coaching career but get him to where he is today.
"There were a lot of good memories," Van Horn said. "Just getting a chance to manage a program. My wife is from Little Rock, and we hadn't been married very long when we came here. People here were always good to me, and after a couple of years it became obvious to them that I was serious about it. It was fun.
"Texarkana's a baseball town; people like to talk baseball here."
Van Horn, who twice coached Nebraska to the World Series in his four seasons with the Cornhuskers, has led the Razorbacks to six College World Series appearances, In 2018, the Hogs were national runners-up.