Kansas City Kansas Community College outfielder Eli Lovell played the recruiting waiting game and came out a winner.
The Blue Devils' Most Valuable Player and leading hitter this season, Lovell was being courted by such NCAA Division I teams as Michigan State, Missouri, Missouri State and Central Arkansas along with most of the teams in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA).
That was until Florida Gulf Coast University got involved. "They saw my stats on the NJCAA website and contacted Coach (Matt) Goldbeck and then came up and watched me in our game against Labette," said Lovell, who more than lived up to any advance billing, just missing hitting for the cycle with a double, triple and home run.
"I went down for a visit and they offered me a 60 percent scholarship," continued Lovell. "A week later, they made the offer a full ride. I said yes the next day."
The deal was made even sweeter by the history and location of Florida Golf Coast in Fort Myers, the one-time spring training site of the Kansas City Royals.
"Playing in Florida, you're scouted by pro teams a lot and Florida Gulf Coast has had 20 players drafted by major league teams since 2000, which is the ultimate goal," said Lovell, That draft list is headed by Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox, the winningest pitcher in baseball this season. "Also, they make the ASC (Atlantic Sun Conference) tournament every year."
A of graduate Lincoln Southwest in Lincoln, Neb., Blue Devil coaches contacted Lovell after a recommendation from Easton Edmond, who was a teammate of Lovell before coming to KCKCC a year ahead of Lovell. He was recruited in the fall of his senior year.
A two-year starter, Lovell had 69 hits, 38 RBI and a .358 batting average as a freshman but no home runs. This year he had a team leading 15 home runs while pacing the Blue Devils in hits (96), extra base hits (41), stolen bases (16) and batting average (.451) and finished in the Top Three in voting for the Jayhawk East's Most Valuable Player award.
"Eli put up tremendous numbers because of all his hard work," said Goldbeck. "He really worked hard on his craft. He also made himself into a good centerfielder after playing the corner outfield spots last year."
In addition to a rigorous training schedule, Lovell played for the Midwest A's in the Mid-Plains League in Kansas City last summer. "I worked my tail off, lifting and hitting every day and before and after practice in the fall. It was a lot harder my freshman year. I enjoyed my time here at KCKCC for sure. I definitely learned a lot my freshman year about the conference and where I needed to be my sophomore year and how much more prepared I needed to be."
Sophomore Eli Lovell became the latest graduate of the KCKCC baseball program to sign a letter of intent to attend an NCAA Division I member. The Blue Devils' MVP and leading hitter, Lovell has signed with Florida Gulf Coast in Fort Myers. (KCKCC Photo by Alan Hoskins)