UVA's Downes having career year with Wilmington Blue Rocks

Former UVA baseball player Brandon Downes cools off after batting practice on July 6th at Calvin Falwell Field in Lynchburg. (Photo: Dave Walls/WSET)

LYNCHBURG, Va. (WSET) - Now in his 3rd season as a professional baseball player, Brandon Downes says it was time for him to get serious.

After slumping at the plate in 2016 with the Wilmington Blue Rocks, the former UVA star said hard work during spring training is finally paying off, saying "I changed a lot with my swing. Trying to not swing as hard, seeing the ball in the zone, and it's worked out for me a lot."

After batting .230 for Manager Jamie Quirk's Rocks last season, that work has sent Downes' numbers soaring, with a stunning 100-point average increase up to .329, with a team high slugging percentage of .786 . In addition to his technical work, Downes says he's taking his role more seriously, saying "I changed a lot. I felt like the biggest thing is that I matured a lot."

Playing in Wilmington, Downes says, also allows him to play close to his family in New Jersey, and allow him to experience bigger crowds that have, in his words, "..a little more chirping in them." As a part of that hard work, the Rocks are above .500 this season, making it a far more enjoyable summer than last season. Says Downes, "We're playing winning baseball. Last year was tough for us, but it's definitely been a lot funner. Winning's fun."

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