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Former Rebel Standout Sets His Sights on the MLB

Photo courtesy: Chris Ellis
Photo courtesy: Chris Ellis

Former Ole Miss starting pitcher Chris Ellis feels like he’s coming home.  On November 12, he was traded from the Los Angeles Angels to the Atlanta Braves. Ellis had been making a name for himself this year with a series of standout performances for the Arkansas Travelers, the Double-A affiliate of the Angels. Now, following his trade back down south, the 23-year old Birmingham, Alabama native is hoping to carry his momentum into Major League Baseball. Hotty Toddy was fortunate enough to catch up with Ellis while he was back in Oxford and to ask him about his exciting new prospects.

Hotty Toddy: What is the biggest difference between college and the pros?

Ellis: The biggest difference that I’ve noticed is the competition. Everyone is fighting for a job, whether it’s a guy on your team or a guy on the opposing team. Granted in college you’re fighting for a starting spot, but in the professional ranks everyone is trying to make it to the big leagues. Suddenly there is money involved, and everyone is challenging for that big paycheck.

Hotty Toddy: What has been the biggest adjustment?

Ellis: The biggest adjustment for me has been my life outside of baseball, if I’m honest. I have been playing baseball all my life, so it wasn’t tough adjusting to the schedules and practice sessions. Personally, it was figuring out how to find an apartment and pay bills. Pretty much just doing grown-up stuff that I didn’t have to deal with in college. It’s been a real adjustment, but I’ve grown up a lot in the process.

Hotty Toddy: Have you learned new pitches since going pro?

Ellis: Yeah. I’ve learned how to throw a slider. I’ve always thrown a curveball, but once I got to the pros I picked up the slider in spring training. As you step up the ranks, you can never have too many pitches. And the development of a slider has really increased the standard of my game.

Hotty Toddy: Who have been the toughest hitters you have faced?

Ellis: The toughest hitters I’ve faced so far have been those at the Double-A level while playing for the Arkansas Travelers. Most of the hitters there have a solid approach and a really good feel for where the strike zone is. It’s important to keep them off-balance in that respect, which came more naturally the more games I started at the mound.

Hotty Toddy: Do you follow the Rebels when they play?

Ellis: I always follow the Rebs. I feel like I’m still on the team and that I never left. That’s one thing I’ll always cherish from my time at Ole Miss. It’s such a close-knit group of guys, so whenever anyone from past teams comes back they are welcomed with open arms.

Hotty Toddy: What advice would you give to Rebs who aspire to play in the pros?

Ellis: I’ve got one piece of advice and that is to work hard while you can because the three or four years you’re in college goes by a lot faster than you think. Take advantage of the many opportunities that college presents and you will improve enormously.

Hotty Toddy: What are you most looking forward to now you’re joining the Braves?

Ellis: The thing I’m most looking forward to is being back in the South. I’ll be surrounded by all of my family again, which means a lot. I’ve enjoyed the newfound independence I’ve gained, but nothing beats being around family. Having good southern cooking in my life will be an added bonus!

Hotty Toddy: How often do you manage to come back and visit Oxford?

Ellis: I actually live in Oxford during the off-season. The baseball team’s strength coach Ben Fleming works us out pretty much every day, so it’s hard to pass up an opportunity to do that during the off-season. Plus the Grove is right down the street so I can go to football games whenever I want.

Hotty Toddy: What do you miss the most?

Ellis: The thing I miss the most about college is having all my friends so close to me. It was great when we were all living in the same area so we could hang out whenever we wanted. Making lifelong friends is one of the greatest things about college.

Hotty Toddy: What do you enjoy the most about the professional aspect of the game compared to college?

Ellis: The thing I enjoy most about the pros is having a sense of freedom. It’s your decision whether you want to live alone or not, and you can practically do anything you want as long as it doesn’t affect your performance on the field. The coaches give you more freedom to do what you want because, ultimately, it’s your career.

Hotty Toddy: What are your goals for the next five years?

Ellis: My goals for the next five years are to not only pitch in the big leagues, but also to help lead the Braves back to a World Series. Then hopefully come home with the trophy!

Story contributed by Joe Rogers, Ole Miss history major and journalism minor, jwrogers@go.olemiss.edu.

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