A Smalltown Boy With Bigtime Talent

Seneca, Missouri, is a town so tiny (population 1,885) that when it produces an athlete of special skills, his reputation may grow to legendary proportions. Scott Elbert is that kind of athlete. He led the state in rushing (2,249 yards) and touchdowns (36) in his junior year of football. He didn't even bother going out as a senior. Baseball's his game of choice and he was so good at that that he couldn't risk getting hurt and ruining his future.

He did play basketball and starred in that, too. Then came the spring when he went 6-2 with an 0.52 ERA, 114 strikeouts against only 14 walks in just 54 innings. The only question anybody had was how did he manage to lose two. Opposing batters just went up and flailed at his fast ball and curve. A changeup was out of the question; that would have been relief to the undeserving.

No wonder the Dodgers made him their first choice in the 2004 draft, considering themselves fortunate that they were able to claim him in the 17th slot. In pro ball, though, things didn't come so easily. Sent to Ogden in the Pioneer League where kids fresh from high school often find it rough, no matter how talented, he was humbled by a 2-3, 5.26 mark.

In the fall of 2005, he can look back on that as the low end of a learning curve. "I just went out there and threw the ball, " he admits. "I didn't know a thing about pitching." Now, though, he's adjusted and prospered.

His record this year at Columbus was 8-5, 2.66 and that doesn't begin to tell how well he's mastered matters. Over the last half he was virtually unhittable, and if there hadn't been pitch counts, he could have won in double figures easily. In his last eight starts, there were five no decisions, all of which he left with a lead.

Everything improved. "I was throwing my fast ball 87-88 last year," he muses. It's up to 94 regularly now. He had a more than decent curve before but he's junked that in favor of an even sharper slider. And he has the feel for a changeup now, too.

Oh, he's still a work in progress for there's too many walks -- 57 in 115 innings. He struck out 128, though, and held opponents to a .211 batting average.

He's a solid 6-2, 190 with the look and actions of the superior athlete. He's now 20 years old, just beginning to take knowledge to the mound along with all that talent. He appears to be on the fast track to the bigtime. Back home in Seneca, they're not surprised. They probably figure he could have done the same in football if that had been the sport he favored.

The Dodger organization seems rich in pitching prospects. However, even in a group that glitters such as this, he's still a standout. Back home they may have to name a street after him some day.

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