BASEBALL: Elliott ready to step into Hazelbaker's shoes in center field
Sophomore will also be used as a reliever
Cody Elliott knows it does no good to think about who he's replacing in center field for Ball State University.
Elliott will have the difficult task of taking over for All-American Jeremy Hazelbaker, the Boston Red Sox fourth-round draft choice last year.
"I'm just going to go out and play like I know to play," the sophomore said. "I know I've got some shoes to fill. I think if I play the way I know how to and get the team to back me up, we'll all be fine."
In addition to playing everyday in center, coach Greg Beals will also use Elliott as a relief pitcher. He pitched at Beechwood High School in Fort Mitchell, Ky. and for the Cincinnati Steam of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League last year.
"I've been working on that a lot this fall and these past couple months," Elliott said. "I pitched a little bit in the summer and it went really well. I think it's something that can help our team."
Beals said he will likely use his new right-hander on Sundays along with second baseman Kolbrin Vitek, the Cardinals' other two-way threat.
Elliott is a hard thrower according to catcher Zach Dygert.
"Cody Elliott's got an explosive arm," Dygert said. "He has a very, very hard, heavy fastball and very good offspeed. He looks very confident on the mound."
Elliott said his fastball has topped out at 93 mph, making him one of the fastest Ball State pitchers. He also throws a curve ball and slider.
Ball State will see another pitcher-center fielder combination in their opening weekend series at the University of Arkansas, which starts Friday. The Razorbacks use Brett Eibner as a starting pitcher and a middle of the order hitter.
Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn said two-way players present a unique problem to coaches.
"They have a tendency to gravitate to what they like doing the most," Van Horn said. "I think most of them like hitting more, so we have to make sure they're getting all their bullpens in."
Elliott isn't concerned with the extra stress pitching will likely put on his arm.
"It's still playing the game," he said. "Whatever coach wants me to do to help the team, I'm going to do it."
This year will also mark Elliott's first season as a starter for Ball State. He played in 36 games last year, but this season he will expect to be in the lineup everyday when he comes to the ballpark.
"Cody Elliot is going to learn on the run a little bit," Beals said. "Cody's as good an athlete as there is in our conference. He can really run and he can really throw. He's extremely talented. He needs to get himself out there, get his feet wet, play everyday for a while and see how he can develop."
Elliott however, prefers a more laid-back attitude to his new role.
"I'm going to show up to the field the same way, put my shoes the same way," he said. "Just show up ready to play."