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May 16, 2012Brian Adams isn't used to the view from the dugout.
Adams, a junior outfielder, had been a key cog for the Wildcats in each of his first two seasons. He arrived as a freshman in 2010 and almost immediately became a fixture in the lineup when he joined the baseball team full-time at the conclusion of spring football practice.
He was an even bigger part of the team in 2011, when he started 39 games and entrenched himself as an everyday player in the outfield.
That all changed this year. Newcomers Austin Cousino and Cameron Flynn took over the corner outfield positions, and Adams found himself stuck on the bench. He had just 13 at bats until early this month, and often came in the game late only as a pinch runner when head coach Gary Henderson wanted his speed on the base paths.
Adams was an afterthought.
But he kept working and prepared the same way he had in his first two seasons. When the Wildcats struggled earlier this month, Henderson inserted Adams into the starting lineup for the first time this season. He went 1-3 in a 2-1 win over Florida on May 5.
"It just got to be time," Henderson said. "Whether it was one of the other guys on the corners needing a break or going through a little bit of a slump, Brian had practiced extremely well and I was trying to give him a shot. He certainly took advantage of it."
Adams has made four more starts since then, going 7-20 in those games. He started as the designated hitter on Tuesday night for UK, going 2-5 with an RBI as UK lost 7-3 at Murray State.
He might not be an everyday player for Henderson, but he almost certainly will continue to get playing time down the stretch. The Wildcats have one Southeastern Conference series remaining before the league tournament begins on May 22.
"Obviously, everybody wants to play," Adams said on Saturday. "But we have some people that can play. I came here to do whatever my role is. If that's coming in in the ninth to pinch run and try and score, that's what they need me to do."
Adams, who had five catches for 46 yards last season for the football team, got started against the Gators. But it was in last weekend's series against Alabama that he took off. He started both ends of a doubleheader on Saturday, capping the day with a home run that hit the top of the scoreboard in centerfield at Cliff Hagan Stadium in the second game.
"He understands where he is," Henderson said. "In fairness to Brian, in our sport you cannot miss summers and falls and come out and expect to play if there's any sort of scouting report on you at all."
Adams hit .428 as a freshman, when he joined the team late in the season and opponents had never seen him before. When he became a full-time player as a sophomore, his average dipped to .288.
He's hitting .303 as a junior, but he said his swing feels as good as it ever has. It took some time for him to readjust to baseball after spending the entire fall with the football team, but he's coming around at just the right time to help his other team out.
"Hopefully he keeps it going," junior catcher Luke Maile said. "Right now his swing looks good, he's been solid in the outfield. If he keeps it going, that's going to be another big reason why we can achieve some of these goals we want to."
If that keeps up, he'll continue to find himself in the lineup. It's a different role than the one he grew into in his first two years, but he's accepted it.
Maile said Adams shows the intensity of a football player even when he's in the batting cage. That paid off for him, and there's still time for him to it to pay off for the baseball team.
"He has gotten his time in," Henderson said. "He's practiced. He's diligent. He's a hard worker. He's an A-plus person. He's got an infectious, energetic personality. It was time for him to get an opportunity and he made the most of it. He'll get more opportunity moving forward."