The upside of Downey

The “We Love Lou” sign that engulfs the west side of Freeman Hall during home games is as good as a jersey hanging from the Hammermill Center rafters for Lou Downey.

But what’s with all the love for the redshirt freshman?

Downey has yet to blast one over the fence wearing the maroon and gold.

He is only one of three regulars who hasn’t attempted to swipe a base.

Not to mention that he makes Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum look like a platinum purchaser of BALCO goods.

According to coach Nate Cocolin, however, it’s Downey’s style of play that makes him a favorite of fans and coaches alike.

“He’s gritty,” Cocolin said. “He just goes out there and plays. He’s an old school, tough, work-his-butt-off baseball player.”

It was Downey’s willingness to succeed at all costs, combined with his work ethic, that eventually put him on Gannon’s radar as a high school player in Latrobe, Pa.

“I knew he could play and I knew he had ability,” Cocolin said. “He wasn’t as mature physically as a lot of 18-year-olds, but we knew he was a baseball player.”

In an attempt to allow the 5-foot-10 freshman enough time to fill out his frame, the Gannon braintrust decided to redshirt the incoming second baseman. However, consistent with his track record, Downey took the time to study, not just watch.

“I really learned that you have to be dedicated every day,” he said. “You always have to work at getting better all the time.”

It was his commitment to the program that eventually earned the 19-year-old a starting spot in only his fifth game.

“There were some nerves my first start, but mostly I was excited,” Downey said. “I was grateful for the opportunity and I tried to take advantage of it.”

And take advantage of it he did. Since earning his first start, Downey has hit safely in 10 of 15 starts while ranking second on the team in on-base percentage and third for the Knights with a batting average of .279. 

The 160-pound Downey is also second on the team in slugging percentage.

“We knew he was going to be a part of the action on our team eventually,” Cocolin said. “We just didn’t know it would be this soon, to be honest. He took his chance and ran with it.”

To the staff, it is Downey’s drive to get on base any way he can that separates him from other hitters.

“He’s constantly working counts,” Cocolin said. “He’s patient and disciplined at the plate – to him, walking is just as important as getting a hit. He just plays the right way.”

According to sophomore Terry Carson, who came to Gannon in the same class as Downey, his early success at the plate and in the field hasn’t come as a shock.

“He’s the scrappiest player I’ve ever played with,” Carson said. “He fights for everything. He’s the first one at practice and the last one to leave. It’s awesome to have him around.”

Despite earning the respect of teammates and coaches, Downey is happy, but not satisfied, with his progression during the early part of the season.

“There is definitely room for improvement,” he said. “I can cut down my strikeouts and improve with runners in scoring position, but for coming in as a redshirt freshman, I think I’m doing my part.”

Although Downey has hit the field running, his maturation off of the field has been just as impressive.

“Last year, he was shy and didn’t talk a whole lot,” Cocolin said. “He still worked and played the game the same way but he wasn’t as assertive in interactions with the team. Now, he’s absolutely one of the boys.”

If Downey keeps improving both on and off the field, the sky is the only limit for this freshman phenom.

Unless, that is, the Hammermill Center ceiling comes first.


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