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Gators senior Cody Dent, No. 20, can now say he has a home run during his UF career.

Friday May 10, 2013Before Saying Goodbye, Gators Senior Cody Dent Finally Got to Say Hello to a Home Run

Gators senior Cody Dent, No. 20, can now say he has a home run during his UF career.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The 35-year anniversary of one of baseball's most unforgettable moments is on the calendar this fall.

One swing made Bucky Dent famous forever and made Red Sox fans want to cry. One swing Monday night at McKethan Stadium nearly brought Dent to tears.

Dent can send his son Cody a thank-you card for that.

A senior infielder/outfielder for the Gators, Cody Dent stepped to the plate in the fourth inning of Florida's 22-1 win over Florida A&M with a runner on and two out. The Gators were already up by eight runs in an otherwise unremarkable nonconference game on a cool May night.

Once he got settled in the batter's box, Dent prepared for Rattlers right-hander Kelvin Singletary's first pitch. Dent's eyes locked in on the pitch and he swung at the fastball.

"I was just looking to get a hit to keep the inning going,'' Cody said. "He threw it in and I just pulled my hands in and barreled it."

Meanwhile, as Bucky watched from the stands, the former Yankees shortstop immediately sensed this could be the one.

"I saw the right fielder going back,'' Bucky said. "Man, that's got a chance."

As FAMU outfielder Aaron Smith sprinted toward the wall, Cody didn't have time to see where the ball was. He knew he hit it hard but .182 career hitters don't typically admire a well-hit ball.

They run and hope it drops for a hit.

"I just put my head down and started running as fast as I could,'' Cody said. "I was hoping for a double."

Before rounding second base, Cody heard the roar. The unexpected, the improbable, had become reality.

In the 381st plate appearance of his UF career and with his final season nearing an end, Dent finally had his first career home run when the ball bounced off the scoreboard beyond the right-field wall.

Teammate Vickash Ramjit, the only other senior on Florida's roster, roared in the dugout as Dent rounded the bases.

"I was real proud of him,'' Ramjit said. "We just kept talking about it, 'it's going to come, it's going to come.' I was in shock it finally happened."

Bucky's emotions twirled inside the way they did on Oct. 2, 1978, when his three-run homer off Boston's Mike Torrez sailed over Fenway Park's Green Monster in the seventh inning of a one-game playoff to lift the Yankees to the American League East pennant.

"It went out and everybody in the section by me starting high-fiving,'' Bucky said. "I was so excited for him. It's pretty special. It's something he'll always remember."

So will Bucky.

Known for his slick glove and light bat over a 12-year major league career, Bucky Dent hit 12 home runs in 5,026 plate appearances, one for every 419 trips to the batter's box for the 1978 World Series MVP.

In this case, the son didn't fall far from the father's tree.

Cody Dent is a regular in Florida's lineup primarily because of his defensive ability, starting the season in center field and moving to shortstop once starter Richie Martin suffered a broken finger earlier in the season.

Dent, who wears No. 20 like his father did with the Yankees, enters his final regular-season home series on Friday hitting .184 and a team-high eight sacrifice bunts. Defensively, Dent has been splendid as usual with only two errors and a .988 fielding percentage, best among UF's regulars.

While Dent has had more meaningful hits during his time at UF -- his RBI double against Texas gave the Gators the lead in an 8-4 win in the 2011 College World Series -- none had cleared the fence until his swing Monday night.

"I've always wanted to hit a home run here,'' Dent said. "It was exciting it finally happened. That kind of took a weight off my shoulders."

The 6-foot, 190-pound Dent now has the ball at home as a keepsake. One of the first people to call after the game was his twin sister, Caitlin, a senior outfielder for the N.C. State softball team.

She is the power hitter in the family, second on the Wolfpack with 13 home runs this season.

"She's got some pop. She hit six home runs in one week,'' chuckled Cody.

For the past four years Bucky and Marianne Dent have traveled nearly every spring weekend from their home in Boynton Beach to either Gainesville or Raleigh to watch their kids play.

They were in Tallahassee on Thursday to watch N.C. State beat Virginia in the first round of the ACC Tournament. Bucky will be at McKethan Stadium on Friday to watch Cody during Florida's Senior Night.

If N.C. State advances Friday, he will then make the trip back to Tallahassee on Saturday to watch Caitlin play.

Weekends like this is the primary reason Bucky decided to retire as a big-league coach after serving as Cincinnati's bench coach in 2007.

"I wanted to be a part of their lives,'' he said. "I missed a lot of it when I was coaching. My wife did a tremendous job with them and counseling them while I wasn't there. I just felt like, 'Hey, I don't want to miss any more time. I want to be there for them and I'm going to be there.'

"A lot of dads don't get a chance to do that."

Bucky considers it one of his best career moves. He got to see Cody walk across the stage at the O'Connell Center on Sunday to receiver his degree in sports management and on Monday witnessed the shot heard 'round Gainesville.

It was Cody's first home run and could be his last.

Regardless, it was one swing to remember.

"I'm really, really proud of him,'' Bucky said. "Those are memories you just can't take away."

Dad knows something about that.

 

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