Josh Adams had a flare for spectacular play
The progress in the Florida baseball program is perfectly exemplified through Josh Adams. It’s no coincidence that the progression Kevin O’Sullivan has made with the Gators has come through the four years of the second baseman’s career. It ended for him at TD Ameritrade Park last week, but his impact on the program will be felt for a long time.
As he sat at the podium in the bottom of the stadium last Tuesday night, trying to compose himself enough to share his memories of the program he invested four years into, the emotions all hit Adams at once. It lasted 25 seconds — nothing but silence.
You could see the wheels turning in his head. The memories flooded his mind. The road trips with the team, the long days of practice, early morning fall conditioning – it was all there. Composing all of those memories and emotions into one statement of reflection would be tough.
Instead of reflecting on what he accomplished in his career, and there are plenty of personal achievements Adams could have spoken about, he went in another direction. He could’ve reflected on helping the program to its first back-to-back College World Series appearances in history. He could’ve talked about what it meant to bring the program its first back-to-back conference titles in 30 years during his final two seasons in Gainesville.
He didn’t want that. Adams focused immediately on the transition that he endured in Gainesville, but it was one that happened off the field.
“These coaches, they're the best coaches in the nation,” said Adams, eyes red and the bill of his hat pulled down lower than usual. “As a player, they help you grow. I think they help you grow even more as a person.”
On the field, the year-to-year progression of Florida baseball started the first year he joined the team.
In the fall of his freshman year, Adams hit the ball too well for the coaches to keep him out of the lineup. He was plugged into center field for the opening weekend because Matt den Dekker was suspended. He hit his way into the lineup, playing the corner outfield spots and second base when den Dekker returned and ending the season as the third baseman.
After his sophomore season, Adams was the first Florida player to earn back-to-back first-team All-SEC selections since Brad Wilkerson in 1997-98.
He struggled as a junior before bouncing back and earning second-team All-SEC honors during his senior campaign.
As Adams matured as a leader on the team, the product on the field for the Gators improved, too. The team moved from NCAA Regionals in his freshman year before advancing and hosting Super Regionals when Adams was a sophomore. The team improved to a College World Series appearance in his junior year before making it to the championship series in his senior season. Adams also leaves Gainesville with the school record for games played.
His bat will be missed, hitting anywhere from second to ninth in the Florida lineup during his career. It’s the glove that might leave the biggest hole. He made just six errors in 352 chances this season, but there was always a flare for the dramatic. He made the bare handed play into an art, even timing a play on a ball up the middle where Adams would flip the ball with his glove to shortstop Nolan Fontana, whose momentum was heading towards first base.
The Gators will try to find a player who can come closest to matching Adams’ production, but it’ll be hard in the first year after his departure. In an era of college baseball where second basemen have become strong defenders and weak hitters, Adams set the bar high in Gainesville, the SEC and even the country.
He won’t be wearing orange and blue on the field when opening day roles around in 2012, but his heart will still be at McKethan Stadium. It doesn’t sound like that will ever change.
“For us seniors who are leaving, it's one of those things, we're all going to be coming back,” Adams said. “At some point in our life, we're going to come back and going to look back on (our careers).”
After the final game of his Florida career wasn’t the time to look back on everything he accomplished in Gainesville, but when he does, Adams won’t find anything to be disappointed about.