From the time he could walk, Robby Elzinga has played baseball.
Whether he was hitting whiffle balls in the backyard as a kid or playing at Northeastern High, Elzinga has loved the sport since the first time he played.
Can't get enough baseball: His passion for the game is so intense that after a senior season in which he hit .508 and was 4-0 on the mound with a 1.13 ERA, Elzinga has continued to play in as many leagues as possible.
Elzinga plays for the Manchester Indians in the Central League and for the Northeastern American Legion squad.
“He’s a ballplayer,” Northeastern High coach Danny Dierdorff said. “He’s an old-school type of baseball player. He loves the game. He will play any position.”
Although he is less than a month removed from his high school season, Elzinga plays as many as six games per week as a member of two teams. He doesn’t mind, though. He just likes to hit the ball.
“It’s a busy schedule, I don’t really have any off time,” Elzinga said. “But I like it because I get to see pitching every night and see the ball better.”
Elzinga’s primary position was shortstop in high school, but during his career he played infield, outfield and pitched.
A new approach: After he returned to Northeastern, where he had been an assistant coach for years, Dierdorff instituted more batting practice in the offseason, which Elzinga attributed his dominant senior season to, as well as an improved approach at the plate.
“I tried hitting the ball up the middle every time,” Elzinga said. “Getting my pitch. Jumping on the first ball that I could hit.”
Dierdorff said that the work Elzinga did in the offseason showed on the field and made him become a player who was poised every time he stepped up to the plate and who knew he could do damage.
“When Robby came to the field he you could tell he was a confident player,” Dierdorff said. “We worked all offseason on which pitches to swing at, confidence in the (batter’s) box and staying in a routine. Robby took all of that into one and then made it his own.”
In addition to an improved mental approach to the game, Dierdorff said that Elzinga’s time playing football as a wide receiver and cornerback for Northeastern did wonders to improve his strength and made him a better baseball player.
Diedorff added that when he saw Elzinga play as a freshman, he had all the tools to be a varsity player, but he needed to improve his strength and bat speed to unlock the talent he had.
“You could see on the field that the game really slowed down for him,” Dierdorff said. “He was able to make much better decisions on which pitches to swing at and which pitches to throw on the mound.”
Although Dierdorff said a few college coaches reached out to him about Elzinga, the shortstop plans to attend Penn State Harrisburg in the fall and won’t play baseball in college.
He will pursue a degree in turfgrass science and is interested in trying to walk on to the Penn State team when he transfers to the University Park campus for his final two years.
“It’s one of those things where some people get lost in the shuffle,” Dierdorff said. “It’s unfortunate. He is definitely a college player.”
Can't give it up: Elzinga won’t stop playing baseball all together though. He plans to continue playing with the Manchester Indians because, in addition the baseball, he enjoys the time spent with his teammates.
“I love the guys at Manchester, they make it fun,” Elzinga said.
Dierdorff praised Elzinga’s unselfish attitude as a teammate and said that he was the perfect example of what a team captain should be.
“Robby is a guy that wanted to help people get better,” Dierdorff said. “Every day he showed up and wanted to make the program better. It wasn’t about what Robby Elzinga had to do, but what Northeastern baseball had to do.”
After a senior season to remember, Elzinga was just happy to be on the field every day. He knows that one day he will have to stop playing baseball, but that day isn’t any time soon.
“I just love playing baseball. I don’t ever want to give it up,” Elzinga said. “Eventually I will have to, but I will keep playing as long as I can.”
Reach Rob Rose at firstname.lastname@example.org.