A Lighter, More Athletic Maddox is Ready

Austin Maddox knew the offseason wasn't going to be fun. In order to drop the weight he wanted to lose, it would require extra time in the weight room and cutting foods out of his diet. The sacrifice paid off. Maddox has dropped 10 pounds and reshaped his body, allowing him to stay at third base this season.

"I feel like I've gotten more agile," Maddox said. "I'm able to move better because of my flexibility. It's all been so that I can move better at third. I've done a great job of changing my diet, and it has really paid off for me."

The goal was to lose weight without sacrificing any of his power, which contributed to the 17 home runs he hit as a freshman. Maddox also added a .333 batting average and 72 RBIs in a season that earned him SEC Freshman of the Year honors.

The drop in his weight has Maddox feeling lighter but also more athletic. He won't ever be an above average runner. The adjustment came in his quickness, which will allow him to get better breaks on the ball.

"I'm stretching extra every day and a few times a day," Maddox said. "I'm trying to make that a part of my routine. It helps me in recovering, too. You come out here after a few days of practice and your body starts wearing on you. If you've been stretching though, it helps a lot."

The move to third base last season was sudden. Bryson Smith was expected to start at third, but he broke a finger diving back to first base in the opening SEC weekend against Mississippi State. Smith wasn't the same, and they needed a replacement at third.

Maddox was the guy.

The move didn't come after weeks of practice or a high school career that saw Maddox get extended playing time at third. Instead, he said he would learn the position on the fly if it helped the team.

"He didn't get much practice time," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "We penciled Bryson in before the season, but as the year unfolded, we probably put (Maddox) in a difficult situation. I thought he handled it great. He took it as a challenge to get better in the offseason."

Maddox had a .941 fielding percentage last year, making him the only starter below .980. The Florida defense put together an exceptional .978 fielding percentage, so the rest of the team made up for Maddox's struggles.

"I gave it my best effort. I think I did fine for not getting much practice time over there," Maddox said. "I've been working hard this offseason, and I think I'll be better off over there this year. I'm taking 100+ ground balls a day."

This spring, no one will have to pick up the slack. Maddox has spent the entire offseason working on his defense. There's no question about his hitting ability. This year he plans to prove wrong those who doubt his defense.

It also came with a preference to stay at third base. With Maddox playing third, the Gators can use Brian Johnson at first base and Ben McMahan as the designated hitter. That is the best offensive lineup, and it is expected to happen as long as Maddox proves he can handle third base.

"I want to stay over there," Maddox said. "I feel comfortable over there, and I've gotten a lot better over there. I've been working my butt off since we ended."

The challenge at the plate will be to build on the success of his freshman year. If there is one negative of his performance at the plate, it's that Maddox only walked seven times in 264 at-bats.

It's hard to nitpick when he drove in 71 runs and served as the big bat in the middle of the order, but it might need to change this season. Maddox won't sneak up on teams this spring after how he tormented the opposition last year.

"I'm sure they won't throw to me as much, and I didn't have many walks last year," Maddox said. "I've got to learn how to take those. I'm an aggressive hitter and I'll stick with my mentality. That's how I am. I like to swing the bat."

The coaches haven't even suggested that Maddox work on being more patient. They have watched him hit since early in his high school career and know the kind of hitter he is. O'Sullivan trusts Maddox to make adjustments during his sophomore season, but they wouldn't ask him to change his entire hitting philosophy.

"People are who they are," O'Sullivan said. "As players, he's an aggressive hitter. The game hasn't changed- the idea is still to throw strikes. He is an aggressive hitter with good hand-eye coordination. If the ball is in the zone, it usually finds the barrel."

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