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Former major league pitcher John Ely will return to the South Suburbs this spring to instill the best of the game as manager of the Southland Vikings.

  John Ely

Having been with several major league teams during his career, Ely has great insights and experience to offer the 28 collegiate players on the team. The season starts May 26. Practice and games are at Hap-Bruno Field in Chicago Heights.

“I have a wealth of information that I’ve built up over the years of playing at every single level, from independent ball all the way up to the major leagues,” Ely said. “From the lowest of lows to the peak of the mountain, I’ve been through it all. I can definitely guide kids who have the potential to play at a high level.”

Ely calls the Southland Vikings a “minor league option” for the Chicagoland area. He expects baseball scouts will be out watching games as they look for exciting young players with exceptional talent.

“I like to let the kids play,” Ely said. “I’m going to fill in the blanks where I can for these guys, but the best way for (players) to learn is through experience.”

Ely, son of Jack and Laura Ely of Homewood, grew up playing with Homewood Little League.  In those early days kids play “every position. You are pretty much all over the field” learning the fundamentals of the game, he said.

At Homewood-Flossmoor High School, he focused on pitching as a sophomore, and became a standout right-handed pitcher by the time he graduated in 2004.

Ely went on to pitch for the Miami University of Ohio baseball team. At the end of his junior year in 2007, the Chicago White Sox took him in the third round of the major league draft. He stayed in the farm system until he was traded to the LA Dodgers in 2009.

Ely remembers his big league debut April 28, 2010. “You dream about it your entire life,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you have no idea what to expect. While it’s happening, it’s such a different rush of emotion.”

Three weeks later, Ely found himself the rookie pitcher going against veteran lefty Ted Lilly at Wrigley Field. Cubs ace Lilly matched rookie Ely zero for zero as Ely allowed only one hit through the first sixth innings. In the eighth, the Cubs hit a double and Ely was called off the mound.

“I threw really well that day in front of everybody that had ever supported me,” Ely said. “I got a standing ovation coming out of the game in the eighth inning. I can’t explain in words how incredible that felt.”

Ely from traded to the Houston Astros in 2012, and went on to play with the Boston Red Sox and Milwaukee Brewers. He had 39 major league appearances, including 29 starts, over three seasons.

Injuries and Tommy John surgery put an end to his major league career.

Ely now is a volunteer pitching coach with the Chicago State University baseball team competing in the Western Athletic Conference. He is going to start work to complete his bachelor’s degree from Miami University.

For information on the Southlake Vikings and their spring/summer schedule, visit http://www.southlandvikings.com/schedule/southland/?act[v]=list

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