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South Central grad in 'Hog Heaven'

CWS Oregon St Washington Baseball
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The Road to Omaha statue sits in front of TD Ameritrade Park, the site for the College World Series in Omaha, Neb. Arkansas and Oregon State made the CWS finals this year.

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CWS Arkansas Florida Baseball
CWS Arkansas Florida Baseball
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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Like many others who work in college baseball, Blaine Kinsley vowed years ago that his first-ever trip to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., would be in a professional manner instead of just visiting as a fan.

Kinsley, a 2006 South Central High School graduate and former East Carolina staffer, has gotten comfortable in Omaha this month and will be in his usual spot in the Arkansas dugout Tuesday night for Game 1 of the best-of-three national championship series for the Razorbacks against Oregon State. Kinsley is the strength coach at Arkansas, which set a new school record this year for home runs in a season.

“It’s just a really cool deal and anyone who loves baseball should definitely come (to Omaha),” Kinsley said during a weekend phone interview. “It’s an unbelievable atmosphere and experience. It’s really hard to even get into the postseason in college baseball, but to get here is very, very hard.”

The Razorbacks are looking to capture their first national title. They last played for the championship during the 1979 College World Series.

Kinsley, who played baseball and football at Lenoir-Rhyne in Hickory, worked with the Pirate baseball, women’s soccer and men’s tennis teams from 2012-16, and then took a job with the St. Louis Cardinals to work at spring training and with their Double-A affiliate in Springfield, Mo. He also has experience with the Chicago Cubs organization, highlighted by winning the 2012 Midwest League strength coach of the year award.

He returned to the college ranks last summer with Arkansas, of the powerful Southeastern Conference, and the Razorbacks come into the CWS finals with 98 home runs after hitting 83 in 2017. Both Oregon State and Arkansas rank in the top-15 nationally in offense.

Veteran Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said during Sunday’s media session in Omaha that Kinsley has made an impact with players during his first year with the team, and especially during a season that has lasted this long.

“He’s earned the players’ respect,” Van Horn said, according to WholeHogSports.com. “They know he’s looking out for them, but he’s also getting after them. We’ve maintained our strength throughout the season. I can’t say that that’s always the case.”

Kinsley added that the Razorback players are plenty talented and they have shown commitment in the weight room, which has made his job enjoyable.

“I’m excited and they’ve put in so much work this year that I really enjoy watching them and supporting them,” he said.

As for Kinsley’s role during games, he said he is available to help in various ways from his post in the dugout. That can involve helping players stretch, which also is a big part of the pregame routine, or warm up if they are set to enter as a pinch runner or pinch hitter.

“I try to bring good energy and good vibes and get the dugout going,” Kinsley said. “In the long run, I’m on the support staff and here to support the guys. We have really good players and I’m just here to complement them.

“I’m very fortunate to be working for Dave Van Horn and his staff. It’s been an awesome experience and I love being a ‘Hog.’”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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