John Ely is coming home again.
For the past three years, the Homewood-Flossmoor (Ill.) native has called Miami University of Ohio home. When the Redhawks would travel to the Chicago area to play other Mid-American Conference teams, such as Northern Illinois University, Ely would always have a mini-homecoming.
However, with the Chicago White Sox selecting him in the third round, 119th
overall, Ely’s homecoming takes on a particular sentimentality. Provided negotiations go well for the junior right-hander, Ely will become a part of his favorite team.
“Every time I came in [for a road trip], Mom and Dad were in the stands,” Ely said. “So it’s always nice to come back to Chicago.”
While Ely’s larger, hulking teammate, 6-7, 235-pound right-hander Connor Graham, has garnered most of the headlines during their time together, Ely performed so well that being “1A” turned into No. 1. By mid-season, Ely was the Redhawks’ Friday night starter, en route to a 8-3 record and a 2.84 ERA.
But don’t ask Ely if he ever really cared or noticed the attention.
“Yeah, the draft is always in the back of your head, especially when you’re a junior and draft eligible,” Ely said. “But Miami always came first. Sure, you see the radar guns and counts in the stands. But like I said, the team and Miami came first.”
At 6-1 and 190 pounds, Ely bears a stark resemblance in mechanics to another 6-foot-ish pro right-hander, Houston’s Roy Oswalt. Today, Oswalt seems to be the bar standard for “short” right-handers, pitchers who must fight the stigma that they can be nothing more than middle relievers. The San Francisco Giants’ Tim Lincecum, NCAA Baseball’s Golden Spikes Award Winner in 2006 also has helped debunk the stereotype. Both Lincecum and Oswalt can routinely hit 96-98 mph.
For Ely, whose ideal velocity sits around 89-94 mph, velocity is not his game. He does throw a two- as well as a four-seam fastball. But teamed with a plus circle change-up and average curve, those fastballs look more vicious.
“That kid’s got major-league stuff already,” said Northern Illinois head coach Ed Mathey, whose Huskies took an early May series from the Redhawks in Dekalb, Ill. “He was routinely hitting 92-94 with at least two major-league ready pitches.
At Flossmoor High School, Ely compiled an impressive 27-5 record, including one perfect game, earning all-conference and all-area honors as a junior and first-team all-state his senior year. However, Miami won him over.
“I really liked the school, first of all,” said Ely, a physical education major. “It’s always had a really good baseball program. But I liked the academics a lot.”
Ely was a two-time first-team All-MAC selection and one of eight unanimous first-team selections in 2007. He ranks second all-time in the Miami record books in strikeouts (284), the most in a three-year period in school history. He also ranks among the Top 10 in three single-season records. He also was named MAC East Division Pitcher of the Week twice in 2007. His arm remains strong, as he has not dealt with any injury in his three-year tour at Miami.
He is an intense and fiery competitor on the field. Now on his way to officially becoming a White Sox player, Ely is a bit subdued. But the day he steps foot on U.S. Cellular Field, rest assured, he will be anything but subdued.
“Really, it’s just always good to come home,” Ely said.
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