UARM is adding both women’s softball and men’s baseball to start the 2020 season, and the new coaches both shared their passion and excitement during informal addresses at the Mena Lions Club last week. The coaches were joined by UARM Chancellor Dr. Phillip Wilson and Vice Chancellor and Athletic Director Morris Boydstun.
Morris Boydstun introduced these new coaches charged with the rare opportunity to launch brand new college programs in a sport.
New softball coach Tracy Nealy has 34 years of coaching experience and led De Queen High to a state championship and 6 state semi-final appearances. Over the last 5 years, his teams went 70-3.
Recruiting and the great value of the new UA/tuition program recently announced for UARM were big factors for Coach Nealy’s decision. “My philosophy has always been that if you surround yourself with good people, good things are going to happen,” Nealy told the group. “That’s the thing about this job that I am so excited about. With the college, now I have the chance to recruit and go get good kids.”
Nealy also shared the life changing event and impact from the tragic loss of his daughter two years ago. “My life changed,” he said solemnly. “Life is short, you go get it.” All of this made him even more excited to come in on the ground floor at UARM to help launch the softball program.
“They have embraced me and made me feel at home already,” Nealy said. “I am excited for the town of Mena. With the dorms being built, and all those kids coming in, those kids are going to eat somewhere, they are going to buy stuff. They are going to help the economy of this town big time.”
For baseball, the Bucks have landed long-time Horatio baseball coach Lance Spigner. Spigner led Horatio to 5 state championships and 13 state final four appearances.
For Coach Spigner, the chance to elevate junior college baseball in Arkansas loomed large in accepting this opportunity. He sees a tremendous need for junior college baseball in this part of the state. “We want to stop the kids from leaving Arkansas to play baseball in Oklahoma and Texas,” he told the Lions. “We want good citizens, you can count on to act right, and to play good baseball.”
Spigner also wants to make baseball game days special in Mena the way they had become in Horatio, where the winning ways and traditions created almost a ‘football Friday’ atmosphere for the baseball games. “I look forward to making the program a really big deal here in Mena.”
All the speakers at this meeting spoke of the economic impact the transformations at the college will have on Mena. Once these (and the other new UARM) sports are up and running, there will be a large number of home games that will draw visitors on a regional basis.
Chancellor Wilson told the group that coach Spigner and Nealy were the only two names the college considered when going after coaches to start these programs. “I know we hit home runs with these coach hires,” Wilson said. “We are going to do it right, the Rich Mountain way, and these guys are leading the charge. Since we announced these coaches, my phone has been blowing up from people calling, asking, how did you get these two guys?”
Wilson also gave an overview of the renovation plans for the new baseball and softball facilities that are proposed for McMillan Park. These plans include indoor pitching and batting spaces, small coaches offices, and upgrading the tennis courts.
“You are going to be surprised and very pleased and proud at the look we are going to give McMillan,” Wilson said. “We’ll do it in a very cost conscious way, but you will be very proud.” There will be a meeting with the City Council to discuss drawing up long-term agreements next month. “I can’t thank the City of Mena enough. They have really, really stepped up.”