Following a successful freshman season at Tennessee in 2012, Will Maddox believed he could make an even bigger impact as a sophomore. The former Gainesville standout did just that this year, even if he won’t quite admit it.
The 5-foot-11 infielder led the struggling Volunteers (22-30) in seven major offensive categories, including hits (69), at-bats (207), runs scored (42), on-base percentage (.425) and stolen bases (22) — which ranked second in the Southeastern Conference.
“I didn’t do everything I wanted to do,” Maddox said. “I felt like I could have and should have had a much better year.
“I have a lot of things to work out. It was such a disappointing year, team wise, that is was hard to look back and be pleased with individual statistics.”
Now that his sophomore year is behind him, Maddox is starting to receive plenty of accolades for his individual body of work. One of the honors bestowed upon him this week was an invite to the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team training camp, which will be held June 21-July 2 in Cary, N.C.
“I feel really confident,” Maddox said. “It is a dream come true to get an opportunity like this. I was hoping after this year I would get a chance. I’m going to go down there and perform to the best of my ability.”
The opportunity to work out with Team USA is reserved for the nation’s best players. So it came as no surprise to Gainesville head coach Jeremy Kemp that Maddox received an invitation.
“That is always an honor, no matter how good you think a player is,” said Kemp, who coached Maddox all four years in high school. “It doesn’t surprise me with what he has done at Tennessee. He has really improved
“He should be confident. He just plays the game the right way. Anyone who watches him play will fall in love with him.”
If Maddox earns a roster spot, he will accompany Team USA on a six-day tour through Japan (July 6-11) before returning to the United States to play summer league games against all-star teams from the Northeast and five games against the Cuban National Team.
“It is a dream come true to get this chance,” Maddox said.
The Times’ 2010 Co-Player of the Year following his junior season at Gainesville and a 2011 All-Area First Team selection, Maddox has been a cornerstone for the Tennessee program since his arrival on campus in fall 2011.
Maddox was the shining star on a Volunteer team that went just 24-31 his freshman season,. He recorded a .297 average with a team-high 63 hits, 32 runs scored, 79 total bases, 14 stolen bases, 212 at-bats and an on-base percentage of .374.
While his freshman individual statistics were good enough to earn Southeastern Conference All-Freshman First Team honors, Maddox knew he could improve.
He joined the San Luis Obispo Blue of the California Collegiate League last summer, playing a key role in the team’s championship.
Maddox returned to Tennessee for the 2013 season and finished the year with a .333 batting average, the 14th highest in the SEC. During one stretch of the year, Maddox put together seven straight multi-hit games, going 16 of 28 with 11 RBIs during the streak.
While Maddox’s individual numbers improved, Tennessee’s record did not. It was a frustrating scenario for Maddox, who was part of a Region 7-AAA championship team his junior year at Gainesville, but he remains optimistic about the Volunteers’ future.
“It is a lot of frustration. We are right there,” Maddox said. “We had a good group of guys and right now we aren’t able to get it done.
“It has been a great experience. I love everything about Tennessee. We are heading in the right direction.”
Moving forward, Maddox is looking forward to his workout with Team USA and finishing his summer league schedule with the Hyannis Harbor Hawks of the Cape Cod League. Then, following his junior year at Tennessee, Maddox hopes to have his name called in the Major League First-Year Player Draft.
“The Cape Cod League is the best league you can play in the summer,” Kemp said. “If you go up there and do well, you usually get drafted pretty high.”