Fontana Passing Along Lessons Learned

When Nolan Fontana looked to his left during the first two years of his career, there wasn't a doubt what he would see. It was always Josh Adams at second base. Adams missed just one game over the last two seasons, but he graduated last year and is currently in the Florida Marlins system. Fontana is now trying to help the younger players mature so that one can step up at second base.

There's no replacing what Josh Adams did at Florida. The second baseman left the school holding the record for games played at Florida and was a contributor during each of his four seasons in Gainesville.

His impact on the program wasn't just numbers. Before the 2010 season, Adams knew the Gators would have a freshman starting at shortstop and took Fontana under his wing to help make the transition earlier. Adams encouraged Fontana to slow the game down because of the speed of the college game.

Fontana is now transitioning that message to freshman second baseman Casey Turgeon.

"Josh put me under his wing when I got here, and that's what I'm doing now with a couple days," Nolan Fontana said. "They're all working hard. It's going to be hard to fill Josh's shoes because he was a great ballplayer. I'm sure there are plenty of guys on this team that can do that."

Turgeon is fighting with junior Cody Dent and senior Jeff Moyer for the starting second base job. The freshman was forced to miss most of fall practice with a head injury suffered when he was in a scooter accident. He jumped back into the groove this spring and hasn't missed a beat.

As many repetitions as the two have received during practice and scrimmages, it doesn't compare to what they'll learn in next weekend's opening series when the Gators host Cal State Fullerton.

"Being able to play game after game with Josh helped," Fontana said. "Whoever ends up being over there (at second base), that's what will happen. It's just working day in, day out with the guy next to you.

"It's part of the process. We've got a lot of new faces on this team."

MADDOX CHANGING APPROACH: The player most ready for the 2012 season to start on Friday might be Austin Maddox. He experienced a down sophomore season after winning SEC Freshman of the Year in 2010. Since the end of the season, Maddox has gone to work with the Florida coaches to fix issues from last season.

Some of it was mechanical.

His approach also played a big role in it. Maddox is an aggressive hitter. He says it's the way he has been through his entire baseball career. He swings a lot, and when he does, he doesn't get cheated. Maddox has always been a power hitter, and he isn't shy from taking big swings to try and produce extra base hits.

It got him in trouble last year. After walking just seven times in 2010, opposing teams starting to throw more off-speed pitches out of the strike zone to see if Maddox would bite. He doubled his walk total to 14, but the junior admitted that he got himself out most times when he swung at pitches out of the zone early in the count.

That's all in his mind now as he tries to make corrections.

"I'm just working on staying back and not moving forward when I'm swinging," Maddox said. "It's starting to come around, and I'm feeling good.

"Sometimes earlier in the count I got myself out chasing pitches that I'm swinging at and get myself out. I'm working on being a little more patient early in the count."

The difficulty for Maddox comes in changing the approach that has produced success every year but one in his baseball career. He knows that in order to produce a bounce back season, it's what he needs to do.

"It's real hard. It's kind of who I am and what's built into me," Maddox said. "I'm aggressive, and that's who I am. I'm just making adjustments and it's working out."


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