The road to The Hill isn't always easy for student athletes. One example is Jared Gates, who's road to Arkansas had several twists and turns.
Gates grew up playing multiple sports as a kid living in Wichita, Kansas. However, he never did step foot on the gridiron.
"My dad wouldn't let me play football," says Gates. "He didn't want me to get hurt so I missed baseball season. My dad wanted me to be a baseball player."
Which is exactly what he set out to do. Gates decided to quit playing other sports and dedicate all his time to baseball during his freshman year at Wichita Northwest High School. He had a very successful career as a Grizzly, hitting over .400 in three out of his four seasons. Gates eventually caught the eye of current Wichita State head coach, and former Arkansas assistant coach, Todd Butler.
"Coach Butler, who just came in at that time. He was like, 'you're going to be my first recruit' and all this stuff. It just didn't work out."
Without any Division I offers, Gates says there were two choices. Either go to play at a Junior College, or quit playing baseball. Quitting, wasn't an option.
"Luckily I got an offer from Iowa Western which is one of the better programs in the country. So I was like, yeah I'm going to go there and it all worked out from there."
After spending two years at Iowa Western, Arkansas finally came knocking.
Former Arkansas hitting coach, Tony Vitello, had showed interest in Gates during his high school career. However, it ultimately didn't work out. Years later, Vitello and Arkansas head coach Dave Van Horn came to watch him play. Gates says he didn't do very well and believed he blew his chance. But, Van Horn decided Gates had what it takes to be a Razorback.
"He was one of the few freshman that played on the team that went to their Junior College World Series," says Van Horn. "So we basically recruited him off those numbers. Then we saw him play, and we recruited him as a hitter."
Gates still remembers getting the call from Vitello while he was on an official visit at Coastal Carolina.
"Coastal Carolina actually wanted me to make a decision in three days," says Gates. "I was like, I've got other places to see. He asked where and I said Arkansas. The coach was like, 'Oh, we're screwed.'"
His time at Arkansas didn't get off to a great start though. Gates suffered a hand injury just a week before opening day and needed surgery immediately.
"I couldn't even throw a ball after that. I couldn't even open my car door with my key. Twist my door handle to get in to my apartment."
Gates missed the first 21 games of the 2017 season. But even despite that, he still hit 14 RBI and 6 homers. One of those home runs still stands out to Gates, as one of his favorite memories as a Razorback.
"The 3AM game, against Missouri State. I was 0-4 going in to that at bat. I thought I was going to get pulled, I though I should've gotten pulled before that. Because I wasn't doing anything productive. But Coach Van Horn left me in and I'm glad he did. Because I hit a home run that ended up being the game winner."
With the end of his college career coming up, Gates says he's grateful for every moment throughout his two years at Arkansas.
"I've become a better person. Coming to Arkansas, growing and developing under coach Van Horn and Coach Vitello and Coach Thompson, Coach Parry, Coach Johnson even. It's just been truly a growing experience for me and something that's truly improved me as a person and a baseball player."
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