A statue will be erected for Tim Elko.
That’s the rumor as big as the legend is of this Lutz native.
“That would be really cool, but I think they could build one for a lot of guys — our pitchers, Coach (Mike) B(ianco), a lot of deserving people,” Elko said.
“Heck, there could be a statue of all of us holding the trophy!”
The trophy that Elko, and his Ole Miss Baseball teammates, would be holding is the one they brought back to Oxford, Mississippi, after winning the 2022 College World Series (CWS).
Playing in their first CWS Finals, this is the Rebels’ first title in program history.
On June 26, the Rebels defeated Oklahoma at Charles Schwab Field Omaha, etching the Rebels, and Elko, in the history books.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Elko, who hit a homer in the first of two CWS games the Rebels played. “You just couldn’t ask for a cooler final season. Some people counted us out, but the rest is history. This was just a great team that never gave up and believed in our abilities. Really, a dream come true.”
Becoming a national champion caps off an amazing collegiate career for Elko, who arrived in Oxford in 2017, after graduating through Hillsborough High School’s International Baccalaureate Program.
He played sparingly, as a freshman.
He played in 32 games as a sophomore in 2019. He had two homers and nine RBI.
Heading into his junior year, he was poised for a breakout. Instead, COVID broke out, shuttering the 2020 season.
He returned in 2021, technically as a senior, and put in a remarkable season: a .325 average, 16 homers and 55 RBI that helped lead the Rebels to a Super Regional appearance.
The legendary part of that 2021 season? Elko played most of it on a torn ACL.
Adding to his folklore status, Elko made the decision to return for a fifth season (a special exemption because of COVID) since having knee surgery following his best season ended any draft hopes that year.
His fifth season added to the legend: He batted .300, with 24 homers and 75 RBI.
Plus, a national championship.
“I’m sure (scouts) were afraid of my knee, so it just really didn’t work out that way,” Elko said. “But I made the decision through prayer and just decided that God was calling me to come back.
“Now, I see why.”
As a four-year starter for Hillsborough, Elko batted .394 with 93 RBI, 71 runs and 115 hits. And from the start, it was obvious Elko was going places.
“Just from Day One, there was something special about him,” said Bryan Burgess, who was one of his coaches at Hillsborough. “He just stood out with everything he did. Tim didn’t get caught up with what should be cool. He worried about grades and the team, and doing what was right.
“It’s not every day that someone shows up and changes (a high school) program, but he did. Now, he’s at Oxford living the dream, and it’s been great to ride it with him this year.”
Growing up playing at Lutz Little League, it’s surprising that Elko didn’t change the Gaither baseball team, the school in his zone.
But Elko took school seriously, choosing Hillsborough’s IB program, and then completing his master’s in sports analytics and bachelor’s degree in exercise science at Ole Miss.
“When Tim went to Hillsborough, I was pissed!” Gaither baseball coach Nelson North said, with a laugh. “He was very good at Hillsborough. You don’t walk him, but don’t give him anything either because he was a very dangerous hitter in high school.”
Despite always coaching against him, North has followed Elko’s college career closely; North also is a former Rebels ballplayer.
“When he left (Hillsborough County), I was glad,” North said, sarcastically.
But he said he was thrilled Elko was heading to Oxford.
“That’s one of those SEC towns, where they love their college teams. I’m glad he got to experience that because the fans there are absolutely amazing.
“Of course, there is no ill will. I’m a very big fan of Tim Elko,” North added. “Not just because he went to Ole Miss, but because he’s a Hillsborough County boy doing it in the SEC. I’m so thrilled at how well he did and I watched every minute of the Rebels in the postseason. I was cheering him on the whole way.”
Now that the season is over and Elko is a champion, he awaits to see if professional baseball is his future.
He will remain in Oxford as the Major League Baseball draft runs through July 19, but he expects to come back to his hometown eventually.
As a national champion.
“I think I’ll be back in the Fall, but it’ll probably be a minute,” Elko said. “Heck, if they let me bring the trophy down there, I will. I think there’s a lot of people in Lutz who would like to see it.”
Published June 20, 2022