Birds of a feather flock together.
For Durango High School pitcher/outfielder Matt Elliott, the trite phrase still has an air of truth to it. While it may
not have been totally necessary to be recruited by a fellow left-handed pitcher, it sure didn't hurt that Friends
University assistant coach Jonathan Gutierrez is a former southpaw hurler.
Elliott signed a National Letter of Intent to take his game to the NAIA school located in Wichita, Kan., next season.
Friends is a nondenominational Christian school of about 3,000 students and a member of the 10-team Kansas Collegiate
The path from Durango to Wichita started in Minnesota for the lean, lanky lefty. Last summer, Elliott traveled to
Minneapolis to participate in a camp for high school players, and his performance caught the eye of a handful of
schools, including a few junior colleges.
All of the Midwest schools up there took interest in me just because I'm a left-handed pitcher and I've got good
mechanics," he said.
The Falcons were persistent in their pursuit of Elliott, who has accrued a 4-0 record with a 4.69 earned run average
and 34 strikeouts so far his senior season. The senior and his family decided to head to Wichita for a visit, which
also gave Elliott the chance to throw a bullpen session for the coaching staff, including Gutierrez.
Elliott said Gutierrez took a liking to him, looking forward to the chance to mold a fellow southpaw, and Gutierrez was
Elliott's main recruiter.
The Durango staff ace said he looks forward to the chance to learn from the former Arizona State pitcher, who lasted
four years (2001-05) in various levels of professional baseball after being selected in the 25th round by the Boston
(Gutierrez is) awesome," Elliott said. He's the one that recruited me. He felt I could contribute to the team."
Elliott, who patrols center field when not on the mound, also took a few batting practice hacks during his tryout,clearing the fence with one booming blast, something he has yet to accomplish in a game this season. The performance
was impressive enough that Elliott said the coaching staff plans to give him a shot in the outfield as well.
Proud papa Russ Elliott said the strong tryout elicited quite the positive response from the Falcons' coaching
The coach looked at me and said, 'Can we sign him now?'" the beaming father said. He said, 'I didn't know he could
hit.' I said, 'I didn't know he could hit, either.'"
Both Matt Elliott and his father were struck by the campus, as well. For Russ, the attraction was the pristine look of
the campus, and the structure and values afforded by the Christian school. The school was founded by the Society of
Friends, more commonly known as Quakers. The teams were known as the Fighting Quakers up until 1960, an odd twist for a
faith that's renowned for its pacifism.
The neat thing about the school is that they have a curfew; they've got no drinking," Russ Elliott said. There's some
value there, which is nice."
For his son, the brand new dorms and the majestic look of the school's Davis Administration Building were key draws, as
was the quality of the business program. Elliott carries a 3.0 grade point average and scored a 25 on his ACT,illustrating a commitment to academics that should serve the probable business major well.
As far as facilities, the baseball facilities, in particular the team's new home at West Side Athletic Field, aren't
too shabby either.
I like the field. It's fairly short, but I mean if you're hitting, who can complain about that?" Elliott said.
Elliott's current coach, Rob Coddington, said the enthusiasm displayed both by Elliott and the Friends coaching staff
during the recruiting process should bode well for his player's future.
It sounds like the coaches are excited about him," he said. Any time you can go to school and play baseball is a
Elliott knows the transition won't be easy, and not just because he'll be on his own for the first time. Coddington
said adding muscle and arm strength will be paramount, and Elliott himself said he'll have to improve his mental focus
at the collegiate level. He'll need it - the Falcons sport a current record of 4-31.
Despite the record, Elliott looks forward to the challenge of helping a currently young roster point the program north
in the standings. Friends' 2010 roster boasts just four seniors.
I think with the new recruits, we should be headed in a good direction," he said.
It'll be a transition for Elliott's family - parents Russ, Ahne and brother Ty - as well, with him nearly 665 miles
away. For dad, not being at every game will be a bit of a culture shock, but the thought of his son using his ability
to earn not only an athletic scholarship, but also an academic one, will help take the edge off.
By the scholarship, they've taken a vested interest in him, and they'll make sure he does well," Russ Elliott said.
In the end, Friends was the perfect fit for Elliott, and like so many other seniors nationwide, he'll soon make the
headlong leap into the future, looking to maximize whatever opportunities the unknown may bring.
I mean, I should be fine," he said. I kind of want to get out of the house and just see what it's like."