Michael Ely has a lot of ground to cover for the Newman baseball team – specifically, from the backstop to the center field fence.
The 4-year starter is an invaluable defender for the Comets, whether it be in his primary position, center field, or behind the plate. It's in center where Ely feels most at home.
"You're kind of in control of the outfield," Ely said. "I just think it's an exciting position. If there's a fly ball hit to right or left field, the center fielder tells them if they need to go deeper or go in. You're in command out there."
Newman coach Tom Wilson is comfortable penciling Ely's name into the lineup each game in center.
"He's been a great center fielder for us," Wilson said. "He catches the ball and throws the ball really well."
Occasionally, however, Ely is needed elsewhere. When there are pitching changes and the Comets' defensive alignment gets set into motion, Ely occasionally finds himself behind the plate.
Two seasons ago, he was the personal catcher for one of Newman starters, Tim Wilson. It's from that experience Ely will have to to dust off the catching gear and get behind the plate.
"It's not my favorite position, but I can do it," he said.
In addition to outfield and catching duties, Ely will also be expected to be a spot starter on the mound. Coach Wilson noted he's about No. 5 or No. 6 in the Comets' pitching rotation, which normally might put him in line for a start in the back end of a Saturday nonconference doubleheader.
With the poor spring weather and a glut of games sure to come soon, Ely will more than likely be getting some prime pitching starts against Three Rivers Conference opponents.
"It's not going to be, 'OK, it's your turn,'" coach Wilson said. "It's going to be, 'We need you to pitch, out of need.' We're confident Michael can do the job."
Ely admits pitching isn't his strong suit, but like his coach, expects he can do the job.
"We've had some great pitchers here, so I really wasn't needed there," Ely said. "Hopefully I can get some solid innings there."
At the plate, Ely batted .322 (19-for-59) with four doubles and 11 runs batted in last season. He also walked 19 times, had an on-base percentage of .488 and a slugging percentage of .390. He's slotted to bat either second or third in the Comets' lineup.
"I just try to get on base any way I can," Ely said, "and then the rest of the order can bring me in."
Ely was also a key member of Newman's state championship football team, as a ball-hawking linebacker. He's a powerfully built 5-foot-7, 160-pounder, but baseball will be his sport of choice in college. He hopes to play at Wisconsin-Platteville – after, he hopes, helping the Comets go out in style.
"I see a lot of potential for our team," Ely said, "and hopefully we can take some success from football and carry it over to baseball."
FYI: 4-year starter for the Comets. ... Will play center field, and also pitch and catch. ... Batted .322 in 2013. ... Also a linebacker for Newman's state championship football team