In the four years since Andrew Elliott graduated from Wheelersburg, Pirate coach Mike Estep has seen the Wright State standout transform from a small, wiry infielder into a stout, powerful pitcher.
“He’s improved dramatically. A great deal of that is how much stronger he is,” Estep said. “It’s always great for our kids to see how strong he is, especially in his lower half. He’s just physically so much more mature.”
After leading the Raiders to the NCAA Regional Tournament, Elliott was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 30th round of the MLB draft on June 10. Estep and the Wheelersburg staff had the opportunity to congratulate Elliott over the weekend before he reported to the Orioles’ minicamp in Sarasota, Fl. on Sunday.
Estep watched his former ace throw a bullpen session and sign autographs for young fans. Wheelersburg assistant coach Matt Conn acted as Elliott’s catcher during the session.
Former big-leaguer and fellow Pirate Josh Newman also had the chance to catch up with Elliott before he left for Florida.
“I told Andrew that he’s getting to do something that other kids only dream of,” Newman said. “There’s only a small percentage of people that go on to play college baseball, and an even smaller percentage that are getting paid to play. I’m so proud of him and so proud of this area to have another person accomplish this.”
Elliott earned back-to-back Horizon League Reliever of the Year Awards as Wright State’s closer in 2014 and 2015. But, Estep feels that Elliott is versatile enough to fit anywhere on a team’s roster.
“He throws multiple pitches — at least three or four pitches — for strikes. He can throw at least three of those pitches, on most days, exactly where he wants to throw them,” he said. “That kind of points toward being a starter. But after being successful in the bullpen at Wright State as a closer, he’s understood the role of limiting those pitches.”
No matter where he ends up, Estep feels that Elliott will thrive because of his work ethic. Estep said that Elliott hit the weights hard during the off-season in college, and that he was considered among the hardest workers in Raider weight room.
“He’s just an extremely hard worker, and that’s contributed a lot to his success on the mound,” he said.
After a stellar junior season in which he posted a stingy 0.65 ERA and recorded 13 saves, Elliott felt that he would be picked up by a team in the 2014 MLB draft. But when that didn’t happen, he didn’t lose faith.
“He’s just allowed that to motivate him during his senior season. Some kids may have just packed it in…that’s not him. He worked probably as hard as he had his entire career,” Estep said.
After workouts in Sarasota this week, Elliott will receive his assignment from the Orioles. He will likely stay in Sarasota and join Baltimore’s Rookie League affiliate, or head to Aberdeen for short-season Class A ball.
Newman’s advice for success in the minor leagues is simple: You’ve got nothing to lose.
“Stick with what got you there,” he said. “You don’t have any weaknesses at that point.”
Reach Alex Hider at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter