Westminster Christian’s Elder commits to ArizonaWestminster's Kevin Elder recently committed to play college baseball at the University of Arizona. | Andrew A. Nelles~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 11, 2011 2:47PM
Westminster Christian’s Kevin Elder returned home to Elgin from a cross-country road trip Sunday night with some big news.
The two-time All-State pitcher solidified his college plans earlier in the weekend when he committed Friday to play baseball at the University of Arizona during a visit to the school in Tucson, Ariz.
One of the top Class of 2012 prospects in the state, Elder no longer has to concern himself with the recruiting process now that he has a scholarship offer from a powerhouse program that owns 15 College World Series appearances and three national titles.
“It’s been a dream of mine to play college baseball, but my ultimate dream is to play Major League Baseball,” Elder said. “This is just another stepping stone on the way there.
“I wanted to get the decision over with so I didn’t have to think about it once school started. Now I can just relax and go through with senior year.”
A hard-throwing right-handed pitcher, Elder attracted interest from a number of colleges. He said his decision ultimately came down to Arizona and Illinois.
Wildcats coach Andy Lopez was a big reason Elder chose to take his talents to the desert. Arizona made an NCAA Regional appearance and finished 39-21 last spring under Lopez, who has built a reputation for turning out future pros during his 29-year coaching career, the past 10 of which he spent in Tucson.
“(Lopez) is really down to earth and he’s really a man of God,” Elder said. “He’s also the pitching coach besides being the head coach. He does things like watch all the bullpens and has you sit down with a notebook and tells you things he saw and has you write it down so you can fix it before you come back the next day.”
Elder will undoubtedly be surrounded by top-notch talent at Arizona, but he’s no stranger to sharing the spotlight. For the past several years Elder and Westminster teammate Ryan Perez have formed one of the top 1-2 pitching duos in the state.
The two aces helped guide the Warriors to the Class 1A state championship as sophomores in 2010, and they played leading roles on last year’s Class 2A regional championship team. Perez, who throws with both his right and left arms, also ranks as one of the top prospects in the state but hasn’t made a college decision.
Elder helped raise his profile this summer by playing with the East Cobb Braves, one of the top traveling teams in the country for players 17 and under based in Marietta, Ga. The squad captured a pair of high-profile championships during Elder’s two-month stay, winning the 17U World Wood Bat National Championship and 18U Baseball Championship Series.
“It was really competitive and it brought a lot of exposure,” Elder said. “I ended up with two rings out of the summer, so that’s pretty cool.”
Elder is coming off a junior season for Westminster in which he went 7-2 with a 1.81 ERA and 132 strikeouts in 69 2/3 innings. For his three-year varsity career he is 22-6 with a whopping 375 strikeouts in 217 2/3 innings.
Considering his high profile and early Division-I commitment, Elder is a prime candidate to be selected next June in the 2012 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. But with many variables going into when and if a player gets selected straight out of high school, Elder isn’t going to concern himself with the matter for now.
“It’s a possibility to get drafted, but I’m not really focused on it,” Elder said.
Elder’s fastball was clocked at 92 miles per hour as recently as last week, and he says he vastly improved his sidearm curveball during the summer to go along with a nasty overhand slider and an effective changeup.
Although it might seem Elder already has what it takes to compete at the Division-I level, he realizes that notion is far from the truth.
“I got to see some of the kids down there (at Arizona), and as far as how in shape they look, I’ve got a long way to go,” Elder said. “I hope to be well on my to looking more like an athlete when I get there.”