When the Chicago Cubs selected Andrew Ely in the 32nd round of the MLB Draft last summer, the 2011 Eagle High grad’s mind raced to Memorial Stadium, where he won a 5A state baseball championship and the home of the Cubs’ short-season A affiliate.
But after one professional season, he figured his road back to Memorial Stadium disappeared. In the offseason, the Cubs left Boise for Eugene, Ore., and Ely started this season in Myrtle Beach, S.C., in High-A ball.
He completes a three-game series in Boise on Tuesday as a member of the Eugene Emeralds.
“When I found out we switched affiliates, I was a little bit bummed,” Ely, 22, said. “But I guess it worked out, and it’s cool to have a little homecoming.
“It’s cool to see family and friends. It’s a little bit of a mental rejuvenation. But at the same time, once the first pitch happens, you’re not worried about where you are or who’s watching.”
Ely went 1-for-4 with two RBIs, three runs, a walk and a stolen base Monday in a 9-0 win against the Hawks after going 2-for-4 with a triple and an RBI Sunday.
Ely joined Eugene at the end of July as part of a wild first 13 months as a professional. He hit .326 in the rookie-level Arizona League last summer before earning a surprise promotion to Triple-A as the Cubs shuffled players to make up for injuries. He hit .229 in nine games to finish the summer.
He began 2015 in Myrtle Beach only to strain an oblique before Opening Day. That earned him a trip back to Arizona to rehab before starting the season in Low-A South Bend, Ind., in May.
He hit .300 through his first 16 games as he feasted on fastballs. But he said Midwest League pitchers adjusted, feeding him a steady diet of breaking balls at the same time he revamped his swing.
His average dropped to .235 on July 26 before the Cubs demoted him to Eugene to keep working on his swing and play every day.
“Obviously, you don’t want to be demoted,” said Ely, who gets to sleep in his own bed in Eagle during the trip to Boise. “But I took it as an opportunity to figure out my swing and play every day, which is something it’s hard to get out of a slump when you’re not playing every day. I’ve been able to do that and start to figure things out at the plate.”
He’s played in 12 straight games since, hitting .340 against Northwest League pitchers after Monday. And Eugene has moved him all around the infield, a plan Ely said the Cubs approached him about to increase his value.
He played second and third base at the University of Washington, where he was an All-Pac-12 player. But he’d played 68-of-72 games as a pro at second base before joining Eugene.
“Probably second base is his primary position,” said Gary Van Tol, the Eugene manager and Ely’s coach during the first season of the select Idaho Cubs in 2010. “But for me, if he can fill in and play short and third on any day to give somebody a rest or to give that manager some options, I think that’s huge. He’s a guy who can make his career last longer if he can play all three infield positions.”
EMERALDS 9, HAWKS 0
|Paula, A, 3B||4||1||3||1||0||0||.264|
|Marcano, R, LF||4||0||0||0||0||1||.239|
|Herrera, C, SS||3||0||1||0||1||0||.297|
|Castro, L, 2B||4||0||0||0||0||2||.200|
|Marte, H, C||4||0||0||0||0||1||.288|
|Jones, W, DH||4||0||0||0||0||3||.118|
E — Marte, Castro. LOB — Eugene 7, Boise 8. DP — Eugene 1, Boise 1. 2B — Delarosa, Paula. 3B — Derkes. SF — Rice. SB — Ely, Paula; Derkes 2, Padlo. PB — Marte.
|Morrison W, 1-1||3||2||0||0||1||4||0.84|
|Ha H, 3||2||2||0||0||0||1||2.08|
|Welmon L, 1-4||4||4||3||2||1||4||4.59|
WP — Ha, Welmon. HBP — Paula (by Justo), Rice (by Thompson). T — 2:53. A — 2,688.