Iowa’s Eldred Becomes Royalty

Story by Megan Sprengeler

Former University of Iowa pitcher, C.J. Eldred, fulfils family legacy, signs with the Kansas City Royals after two seasons as a Hawkeye.

IOWA CITY, Iowa – The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, at least not in the Eldred household. Following in his father’s footsteps, former UI baseball standout, C.J. Eldred, can now call himself a professional in the world of baseball.

The Mount Vernon, Iowa native was practically raised on America’s game. His father, Cal Eldred, previously stepped up to the plate (or mound in this case) and pitched for the Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago White Sox, as well as the St. Louis Cardinals back in his day.

“I’m excited to continue down a path that my dad took,” Eldred said. “Growing up watching him play, it has always been a dream of mine to do what he did. Right now, I am just entering a brand-new chapter and I am looking forward to what God has planned.”

Eldred started his college baseball career as a Hoosier, redshirting in his first year, but transferred to the University of Iowa— his father’s alma mater.

“My dad has easily been the largest and most positive influence on me when it comes to baseball,” Eldred said. “I am very thankful and blessed to have a dad who has been able to put the type of impact on me through my career that he has.”

The father-son duo can now add another item to the list of things they share in common, in addition to where they played in college, going professional, right down to their names. The Kansas City Royals announced late in 2017 that Cal Eldred would take his place as the new pitching coach for the 2018 season.

Eldred and his father will have to wait a few years before they meet up at the major-league level, despite the fact that the two will be working and competing under the Royals organization in the coming season. Eldred will have to start in the minor leagues and work his way up through the system until he reaches the majors; a normal progression for any player.

“Going into my first full year, I am not entirely sure on what to expect,” Eldred said. “I do know that it will be a challenge and a grind; to be honest, I could not be more excited for it. I haven’t thrown a pitch in a game since my first start of the spring, so I am excited about being healthy and just getting to compete and pitch.”

2016 proved to be the bulk of Eldred’s time at Iowa, earning his spot as Iowa’s Friday starter for the season. Eldred went 3-8 with a 3.43 ERA over 94.33 innings (ninth-most in the Big Ten and 10th-most in single-season school history), striking out 63, in comparison to 25 walks.

Eldred ended the season with a team-best seven quality starts and two complete games.

Before leaving Iowa for the Royals, Eldred pitched briefly in the season-opener at South Florida on February 18, but then had to undergo a partial repair surgery of the UCL, causing him to miss the remainder of the season.

Eldred was expecting to wait another year before having his shot at professional baseball after undergoing elbow surgery.

“My goal has always been to play professional baseball,” Eldred said. “These opportunities don’t come around very often. Coming off surgery, there are always questions, so having an opportunity in front of me made it hard to pass up.”

Eldred knew the opportunity to play professional baseball would allow him to embark on a path he had always hoped would be in the cards, but also knew it wouldn’t come without compromise.

“The hard part was knowing that I wouldn’t be returning to Iowa to play with a group of guys, who I didn’t just consider teammates, but great friends” Eldred said. “I talked to a few guys about the opportunity to get their opinions.”

Eldred noted that attending the University of Iowa not only influenced him in in the classroom and on the field, but has shaped how he will continue forward in the real world.

“The main thing Iowa did to prepare me for this next step in my life was show me how to treat people the right way,” Eldred said. “At Iowa, I experienced great examples of how to treat people correctly. Unfortunately, I also experienced people treating others poorly. Seeing both has shown me that you must always treat others how you would want to be treated, even if it does not benefit you. I believe learning this will help me a lot, not only in professional baseball, but life in general.”

Eldred will report for spring training with the Kansas City Royals on March 2nd.

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