BY DEAN HOCKNEY
KOKOMO, Ind. – Eli Grimes will have the opportunity to do something that most high school baseball players dream of – playing at the collegiate level. The recently graduated Kokomo Wildkat shortstop joins five of his teammates who have received the invitation to play college baseball – for Grimes, the choice is Goshen College, which plays at the NAIA level.
“They came down and looked at us and wanted to see me on campus,” said Grimes, who spent a weekend with the Maple Leafs program during a visit. “I made a visit and fell in love with the campus and the program. I see a lot of potential. They need middle infielders and I think I will get a shot.”
Goshen assistant coach Alex Childers is excited to bring a Wildkat into the fold. He said Grimes is the type of player who will fit right into the Maple Leafs mantra of hard work.
“We have a bunch of guys who are committed to turning this program around,” said Childers, referencing the new winning philosophy that second year head coach Eric Screeton is instilling at Goshen. “We have guys that want to form an identity at Goshen. That is why I am excited about Eli. I think he fits that and is an extremely hard working infielder. He is not afraid to get his hands dirty.”
Childers said bringing a former Kokomo player into the Goshen system should have a positive trickle-down effect on the rest of the team.
“Historically, Kokomo is a grind-it-out type of team – and Eli will bring that to us,” said Childers. “Plus, Kokomo plays in a historically good conference and plays good competition; Eli will know how to compete.”
Kokomo head coach Tim Weeks said he is confident Grimes will be able to play at the NAIA level with Goshen.
“This is a great testament to him that he is someone that other kids can look up to who are coming up in the program,” said Weeks. “He works hard. This is not something that came easy to him, but hard work has paid off. I know it is a cliché, but in his case, it has. When he was a sophomore, he weighed a buck-20 (120 pounds), but he worked to get stronger and make himself someone you have to have in the field. I think his better days are ahead of him.”
Weeks said that if Grimes wants to succeed, he will need to continue to develop as a player.
“It won’t be handed to him on a platter, he will have to work,” said Weeks. “Yes, it is the NAIA level of baseball, but they are very good players and most of them were one of the top two players on their high school team.”
Grimes joins Parker Sanburn (University of Arkansas), Preston Emmons (Goshen College), Cody Shipley (Franklin College), Jacob McMain (Franklin College) and Chase Hatfield (Ancilla College) from the 2013 Wildkat baseball team who will play college baseball this fall.