Surprise, Dowdy leading off at UF


Published: Saturday, March 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 28, 2003 at 10:26 p.m.

Ross Jones is happy he made a mistake.

Facts

Tonight's game

  • WHO: Siena (0-6) at Florida (9-1)
  • WHEN: 4 p.m. today, 1 p.m. Sunday, 6:30 p.m. Monday
  • WHERE: McKethan Stadium
  • TONIGHT'S PROBABLE: Florida RHP Justin Hoyman (2-0, 2.08)

    The Dowdy file
  • POSITION: INF/OF
  • HEIGHT: 6-1
  • WEIGHT: 186
  • CLASS: Junior
  • HOMETOWN: Bradenton
    By the numbers
  • AT-BATS: 41
  • HITS: 19
  • BATTING AVG.: .463
  • RUNS: 21
  • DOUBLES: 6
  • HOME RUNS: 0
  • RBI: 16
  • STOLEN BASES/ATTS: 6/6
  • FIELDING: 0 errors in 42 chances

  • Three years ago, an eager infielder named Brett Dowdy went looking for a place to play collegiate baseball and stopped at North Florida where Jones was then an assistant.

    It wasn't a long stop.

    "After I left," Dowdy said, "he told coach (Dusty) Rhodes, the head coach there, that there was no way I could play there. It's kind of funny now that I'm here he says, 'I'm glad I made the wrong decision when you came (to UNF).' "

    Jones, of course, is now Florida's pitching coach. Dowdy, meanwhile, is the Gators newest leadoff hitter and third baseman after transferring to Florida from Manatee C.C. last year. He has become Florida's unquestionable spark plug at the top of the order this season, hitting .463 with 16 RBIs and six stolen bases for the 9-1 Gators.

    But in Jones' defense, he had his reasons for passing on Dowdy out of high school. The Ospreys had a limited number of scholarships (9), not to mention two promising freshmen infielders. Oh, and there was one more thing.

    "In high school he looked like he was two fungo bats with a hat on top," Jones said. "He was skinny."

    He had no offers to play collegiate baseball, not even at Florida where his grandfather Earl once played football. Dowdy instead went to Manatee, kept getting bigger and stronger and continued believing. Finally at the Sophomore Showcase - where top junior college players show their stuff for Division I coaches, Florida assistant John Cohen honed in on Dowdy.

    "I always wanted to come here since I was a little boy," Dowdy said. "It's a dream come true."

    On top of that, Dowdy has been hitting leadoff since Florida's second game. His speed and energy and ability to get on base make him one of the Gators' more exciting players.

    "It's something I love to do, I love to get the game started," Dowdy said. "I love to get the rally started. I love being able to score the first run. It's something I really enjoy doing."

    He's scored a team-best 21 runs in only 10 games this season.

    "He brings an awful lot to the table as a leadoff hitter," coach Pat McMahon said. "He's got a good eye at the plate. He understands his role on the ballclub and he can do so many things as a leadoff hitter."

    Nobody knows that better than Jones, whose staff spent the fall and early season scrimmages trying to get Dowdy out.

    "We knew he could play, he's such an exciting player," Jones said. "I'm just glad I didn't take him at UNF because then he wouldn't be here."

    You can reach Brandon Zimmerman by calling 374-5051 or by e-mail at zimmerb@gvillesun.com

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