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Freshman Feature: Texas Native Ellis Bitar Big Red’s Next Star at Catcher
Under head coach Bill Walkenbach, the Cornell baseball team has had a good run of success, both team wise and individually. That success includes an Ivy League title in 2012 and a series of players drafted by the MLB. It’s probably due, at least in part, to how close the team is now.
Freshman catcher Ellis Bitar saw it for himself firsthand. Bitar remarks about the team, “everyone’s so close. It was really easy to talk to the guys and get comfortable with them,” adding “We’re a big family.”
For some student athletes, Cornell marks the first time they have to compete for their spot. But competition and big schools are not new to the student athlete out of Katy, Texas. Although Bitar was born in the city of Houston, and pulls for the Astros, he’s a Katy product. The town of Katy “used to be all rice fields,” but has “really blown up” recently, Bitar explains. Bitar attended Seven Lakes High school, a school of around four thousand students, were he called his best moment on the baseball field going 3-3 with two doubles and a home run in the playoffs of his sophomore season. The Texas area grows more than rice. It breeds talent. “Every ace we faced was throwing 90,” Bitar stated.
Bitar has been playing baseball since he was four years old, but only first played catcher seriously when he was “13 or 14.” One of his teams needed a catcher, and he was moved because of his athleticism. Bitar took to liking it and now he will be behind the plate for the Big Red. Bitar identified his strengths as his arm, and his footwork and quickness behind the plate, and says he bases his game on Giants’ star Buster Posey. He’s still working on framing pitches.
Bitar was first noticed by Cornell in Stanford, California at a camp frequented by Ivy League schools. After visiting, he felt “It worked. It was a better fit for me [than Columbia]. This is my best option.” Bitar thought, adding “It’s been great.”
Great when he figures out the TCAT bus system first. Bitar and his roommate, fellow freshman Trey Baur, got on a bus thinking it was going to Dryden Road. It took them to the town of Dryden instead. Chalk it up as a learning experience.
His family is typical of the Cornell diversity. His father hails from Beirut, Lebanon, and his mother was in the military so he traveled all over as a kid. Also in typical Cornell fashion, Bitar is undecided on his career path or goals. He’s enrolled in ILR because it’s broad enough for him, and his goals is just to, ”live a comfortable life,” and “Be happy with my job.”
But baseball is still baseball. It means a lot to Bitar. He loves being part of a team, but he says ”nothing does it for me like baseball. I’ve been playing for so long, its satisfying for me.” With any luck, Bitar will be a satisfying piece behind the place for the Big Red over the next four years.