A young Justin Seely sat in the batters box at Buck Beltzer Stadium.
The young Cornhusker embraced the moment, awaited a pitch in hopes of providing an offensive spark to his team in front of the home crowd.
Moments later, Seely would record his first collegiate base hit on a line drive up the middle. As he rounded first base, and stutter-stepped back to the bag, he glanced over at then Nebraska baseball coach Dave Van Horn, who pointed a gun sign with his right hand towards him.
The team’s base stealing sign at the time was a hand figurement of a pistol. The third base coach, usually Van Horn, would shoot base runners a gun sign towards his players when he wanted them to steal a base.
Seely, having the thought in his mind that his coach wanted him to steal second base, dug his feet into the dirt. As the opposing pitcher lifted his foot to release the ball, he sprinted to second, sliding feet first and was called safe, beating the throw from the catcher.
Moments later, Seely advanced to third base. Immediately he awaited a pat on the back or at least a handshake or high five from his head coach of the time. Instead, however, he got a dose of sarcastic constructive criticism.
“What the heck are you doing,” Van Horn said to Seely. “Why are you running?” Seely, adamant of what he thought he’d seen, explained himself to his coach. “No, shooter.” Van Horn said in response. “Good job on the hit. I was just shooting you (a) gun.”
A moment of seriousness transitioned into comedic exchanges between Seely and his head coach, as the two reverted back to a more serious tone shortly after.
Moments like this, capture the nature of their relationship.
The two formed a special relationship during their time together in Lincoln, primarily due to Van Horn’s admiration for the OSU assistant coach’s work ethic.
Van Horn says Seely stuck out not necessarily because of his talents, but because of his willingness to learn more and improve.
“He was like a gym rat,” Van Horn said. “He always wanted to get better. He was a great guy when I coached him and he’s the same way today.”
Seely graduated from Nebraska in 2003 while Van Horn was hired by Arkansas that same year.
Nothing changed between the two.
As Seely began to advance in his post-athletics career, the two remained in touch.
“We’d still speak about four to six times a year on the phone or however,” Seely said. “We’d talk over the summer a couple of times usually.”
Seely was hired by OSU as an assistant coach following the conclusion of the 2021 season, and Van Horn was one of the first to congratulate him on finding a home in one of the big names of college baseball in OSU.
One year later, the two met at O’Brate Stadium as the Cowboys and Razorbacks squared off in the Stillwater Regional.
“It’s a little bittersweet for me,” Seely said. “He did a lot for me in my career. I was just a boy from East Texas, never seen snow in my life. So to go up to Lincoln, and play at Nebraska under him like I did and take a chance, it was awesome. He put together some really good teams, I just happened to be a part of them.”
Four days later, after three back-and-forth, down-to-the-wire games between the two teams setting numerous NCAA baseball postseason records, Arkansas came out of regional play victorious.
While Seely and Van Horn both were stationed in opposite dugouts during games, that didn’t stop them from rekindling their relationship to an extent outside of baseball, speaking multiple times before and during the regional.
Van Horn said seeing Seely have the success he’s had over the course of his career is special for him to see as his former head coach. They may have been on opposite sides this week, however, Van Horn can’t help but reminisce slightly regarding how much his player from long ago has grown in a 20 year span.
“When we compete against each other I want to win of course,” Van Horn said. “But I’m just happy for him that he’s been able to have so much success coaching at this level, which is not an easy thing to do. He’s going to be a head coach one day. So, it was just cool going up against him this weekend and I wish him nothing but the best.”