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Virginia returned nearly every player on offense from the 2009 team, so it seemed like there would be no room for anyone to step up this season. But with his play to this point in the season, freshman Stephen Bruno has forced his way into the Cavaliers’ lineup. His numbers to this point are pretty impressive — .473 batting average, three homers, 19 RBI, a .764 slugging percentage. He has been a terror for opponents while hitting primarily out of the ninth spot in the batting order and has earned regular starts in the designated hitter slot of late. The Audubon, N.J., native took a quick break during the Cavaliers’ busy schedule this week to talk for the latest installment of “Rounding the Bases.”

How has the start of the season been going for you?
Bruno:
Coming into the season, I really had no expectations. Our lineup is unbelievable and I knew that I’d have to play to my highest level to break the lineup. I’ve gotten the opportunities and I’ve come through and that gives me a lot of confidence to get the job done.

What has it been like to work your way in slowly while learning under the veterans in the infield?
Bruno:
Tyler Cannon is a great team leader and teacher. I work with him every day and talk to him. He’s a great person to learn from. [Keith] Werman is a great guy. He’s been teaching me the footwork for second base. And Steven Proscia is a great guy. He’s a Jersey native so we have something to relate to. He’s helped me too throughout the fall and the spring, just keeping my confidence up.

What has been the biggest surprise for you in college?
Bruno:
The speed of the game. I knew it was going to be an adjustment and I struggled in the fall, but a lot of freshmen do. Making adjustments on the fly has been one of the biggest things and Coach Mac [Kevin McMullan] has helped me immensely. Just being on time at the plate and footwork at shortstop and the other positions, I think the adjustment part has been the biggest thing.

Was there a time when the light went on and you felt like things were starting to slow down a bit?
Bruno:
I felt toward the end of the fall, toward winter break, that I was ready to incorporate all the things I’d learned in the fall and it was starting to come together.

Why did you pick UVa?
Bruno:
I picked UVa because, first of all, I loved the coaches. I love Coach Mac, Coach O’Connor-they’re great guys. I love the campus and the team – the whole camaraderie of the team. I felt so welcomed when I met everybody that I felt like it was a good fit.

Talk about your relationship with Coach McMullan.
Bruno:
We have a great relationship. He knows how to talk to me in a way a lot of other people don’t. He knows my personality, so when he teaches me things, he teaches in a way that I’ll understand. If he were just yelling at me, I’d get defensive. He knows how to get things across.

Why did you pick UVa over the New York Yankees, who drafted you in the 26th round last year?
Bruno:
I always wanted to go to school. I wanted to get the college experience and play college baseball, and I felt this was a great fit.

What has your college experience been like so far?
Bruno:
It’s been awesome in both the social aspect and the athletics. It’s great coming into a program with the guys we have on the team. Everyone welcomes everybody, and it’s been an even better experience than I expected it to be.

Is school pretty challenging?
Bruno:
It is. It’s not as hard as I thought it would be, but time management is a big thing. I think I’m managing it well. You have to take the advice of the upperclassmen on how to manage things.

Talk about playing at Florida State and being harassed by their fans.
Bruno:
I haven’t been played in front of a crowd like that my entire life and it’s pretty overwhelming at first. But I think it’s funny-a little freshman really not knowing what he’s doing. It was pretty cool.

Your home run at FSU in front of 4,000 people must have been special then?
Bruno:
I flew around the bases. It was something else. It was really something special.

What are your plans and goals for the rest of the year?
Bruno:
I just want to try to continue doing what I’m doing, coming through with the opportunities I get and staying confident – just being myself, not jumping out of my shoes and playing the way I know how to play.

Favorites:
Food:
Buffalo chicken cheesesteak
Spot on Grounds: The Corner
Baseball memory: my walkoff single in the Clemson game
Class: Baseball Arguments. It’s a writing class.
Website: MLB.com
Music: Alternative rock
Movie: The Departed
Sports team: Yankees, Phillies and Eagles.
Celebrity: Will Smith

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