As a sergeant in the U.S. Army, Ashton Smith is ready to go behind enemy lines at any time. That mentality carried over to his Arkansas baseball fandom this weekend.
He was the fan referenced in Kendall Rogers’ viral tweet about a guy wearing Arkansas gear and “flying a massive Arkansas Razorbacks flag” in left field at the Texas A&M-Alabama game in College Station on Friday.
Not mentioned by Rogers was the fact that Smith followed it up by doing the same thing at Texas’ home game against San Jose State the next day. So what possessed an Arkansas fan all decked out in Razorback gear to attend a pair of games, neither of which featured his favorite team?
When reached by Best of Arkansas Sports, Smith revealed it was a “spur of the moment thing” made possible by tagging along with his friends who were taking their kids to College Station – a quick, 1.5-hour drive from Fort Cavazos, Texas, where he’s stationed.
“They asked if I wanted to go with them and hang out afterwards and I said, ‘Let me grab my flag if we’re going to College Station,’” Smith said. “I grabbed the flag and I took the broom handle out of the closet to use as a handle so I could fly it. After we dropped the kids off I said we had to go to Blue Bell Park.”
Behind Enemy Lines
Being stationed in Texas, this wasn’t the first time Smith made a baseball trip with his Arkansas flag. The 24-year-old went to the Round Rock Classic last season and was in Arlington for the College Baseball Showdown earlier this season.
A native of Cabot, Smith has also been to Baum-Walker Stadium numerous times and even spent a semester at the University of Arkansas before switching from the Army reserve to active duty in 2020.
His love of the Razorbacks has never really been in question. After all, he has a whole sleeve of tattoos dedicated to Arkansas and frequently flew his flag while stationed in Kuwait in 2019.
The experience at Blue Bell Park, where the Aggies were hosting Alabama, was a new one, though. It went just as he’d hoped.
“I walked to the back where I could stand behind left field and just started having fun,” Smith said. “Friendly banter with some A&M fans back there, it was awesome. I told them, ‘I was there to remind them who their daddy is’ and they got a kick out of it.”
Perhaps it was because tensions were higher with an unexpected rubber match underway against San Jose State, but the vibes were a bit different in Austin on Saturday.
“What started as friendly trash talk turned to an old man wanting to fight me and people swearing at me,” Smith said. “A lady noticed me and pointed me out to her husband and the husband said, ‘Yeah, that dumbass was at College Station yesterday, too.’”
The Uniqueness of Arkansas Baseball Fandom
Ashton Smith’s actions this weekend are just another reminder that Arkansas baseball fans are a bit different than most. Just ask Jack Mahoney.
Fresh off what South Carolina baseball coach Mark Kingston described as one of the best pitching performances the Gamecocks have had in a long time, the junior spoke glowingly of his experience pitching at Baum-Walker Stadium on Saturday.
Mahoney threw seven scoreless innings, but ran into a little bit of trouble in the seventh by giving up back-to-back singles to start the inning. That got the crowd on its feet, but he induced a double play and notched a strikeout to escape the jam unscathed, helping South Carolina even the series with a 3-1 win.
“Arkansas is the one place in the SEC that I have always wanted to pitch and this place did not let me down,” Mahoney said. “In that seventh inning, I kind of had to remind myself that I have a job to do.
“That kid kind of hit the nubber over Talmadge (LeCroy) and I get the ball back and I am looking around and it was the one of — no, it was the loudest thing that I have ever heard in my life. I just kind of (had to) stop and take a breath. … This place is different here.”
Through this weekend’s games, Arkansas baseball ranks fourth nationally in average attendance at 9,643 — trailing only Mississippi State, LSU and Ole Miss. Last season, the Razorbacks led the nation at 10,376 fans per game.
One of those fans last year was Grant Harmon, who had to leave the Friday night top-25 showdown between Arkansas and Vanderbilt early to get a rabies shot after catching and carrying a wild raccoon out of the stadium.
This weekend marked the one-year anniversary of him becoming a viral sensation and even being a guest on SEC Network. So, perhaps, it was great timing on Smith’s part to remind the country that Arkansas baseball fans are a special breed.
More coverage of Arkansas baseball from BoAS…