FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Thanks to the generosity of a pair of former Razorback baseball student-athletes, Arkansas’ new baseball development center will have a familiar name attached to its lobby when it opens in the spring of 2021. The Mark Sutton Family and the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation both made $500,000 gifts to name the front entrance of the facility – the Norm DeBriyn Champions Lobby.
Mark Sutton and Johnny Mike Walker were baseball student-athletes in the 1970s during Coach DeBriyn’s first decade as a coach at the University of Arkansas. The Norm DeBriyn Champions Lobby will feature numerous historical displays and interactive content showcasing the history of Razorback Baseball. Construction on the baseball development center is scheduled to begin next month with a targeted completion set for spring of 2021.
“We are grateful to the Sutton and the Walker families for honoring Coach Norm DeBriyn is such a meaningful way,” Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Hunter Yurachek said. “From Fairgrounds Field to the nation’s best collegiate ballpark – Baum-Walker Stadium, there is no mistaking Coach DeBriyn’s fingerprints on our baseball program. It is fitting that two of his former players have stepped forward to recognize the transformative impact Coach DeBriyn made in their lives and the lives of so many other student-athletes. These special gifts celebrate Coach DeBriyn’s many contributions to our program while helping ensure his legacy continues to benefit generations of future Razorbacks.”
DeBriyn has been associated with the Razorback program for 50 years, including 33 years as a coach and 17 years with the Razorback Foundation. Hired as the head baseball coach in 1970, DeBriyn guided the Razorbacks to two Southwest Conference titles, one Southeastern Conference title, one SEC Western Division title, 15 NCAA Tournament appearances and four NCAA College World Series appearances.
Upon his retirement from coaching in 2002, DeBriyn ranked 14th all-time in career wins among NCAA Division I head coaches with a record of 1,161-650-6 and a career winning percentage of .641. He still ranks as the University of Arkansas’ all-time victories leader. He was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and the University of Arkansas Sports Hall of Honor in 1991. He was inducted into the Southwest Conference Hall of Fame in 2015.
“Coach DeBriyn is a man of remarkable character and it has been a joy to partner with the Walker Foundation to honor Coach DeBriyn and the legacy he leaves the University of Arkansas and the players who wear the uniform,” Mark Sutton said. “He placed high expectations on us as student-athletes but placed even higher expectations on himself. His was an example I aimed for in my own profession and I am a better man having played under his leadership.”
“As one of his former players, I am just one of the many individuals whose life was influenced positively by Coach Norm DeBriyn,” Johnny Mike Walker said. “Coach DeBriyn not only taught us baseball, he coached each of us in life. I will forever be grateful for those valuable lessons and his investment in me and others affiliated with the Razorback program. Through the years, I have had the privilege to call Coach DeBriyn a dear friend. The Walker Foundation is proud to honor Coach DeBriyn and celebrate his continuing legacy by providing meaningful opportunities to current and future Razorback baseball student-athletes.”
The Baseball Development Center, an approximately 49,000 square foot baseball performance facility will provide student-athletes with an improved and expanded locker room, team meeting room, strength and conditioning center, training room, nutrition center, student-athlete pitching and development lab and an in-venue batting tunnel.
The Baseball Development Center will be constructed in the right field corner of Baum-Walker Stadium, connecting it with the current west concourse and providing new premium viewing areas for games. It will also include a tunnel to connect the facility with the first base dugout. In June, the Board of Trustees approved a final project cost of $27 million for the facility. The Baseball Development Center will be funded entirely by athletic revenues, gifts and bond proceeds from the bond issue. No university funds, state funds or student fees will be required to complete the project.
The addition of a Baseball Development Center will be the latest in a series of renovations and additions to Baum-Walker Stadium which first opened in 1996. In April 2018, Baum-Walker Stadium was ranked as the best collegiate ballpark in the nation by Baseball America.