A casual pass through the archives of the Cedar Rapids Gazette, specifically looking at the years 1967-1971, produces an extensive list of game summaries and box scores from Norway High School baseball games in the championship heyday of the team.  In many of those contests, on teams that included future major league player and coach Bruce Kimm, as well as future minor leaguers Dick McVay, Steve Stumpff and Rick Ryan, the slugging star was often the slick-fielding shortstop, a player whose name is recorded in the various baseball encyclopedias as Donald M. Elliott.  To the town he is known simply as ‘Max’. 

Since before Max’s birth in 1953, his parents, Donald and ‘Dot’ (nee:  Dorothy Laird), were the proprietors of the Norway barber shop called “Rasty’s”, a shop that Max’s grandfather Andrew had founded.  Don was, himself, a Norway High School baseball alum, so the Elliotts raised Max in the same manner as most Norway boys of the era.  That is to say, from the age of four or five, baseball was the activity of choice for most of the year.  Max’s “Little League” coaches - Lyle and Wayne Kimm and Don Stumpff - inculcated the “Norway way” of baseball, with an emphasis on the fundamentals of pitching and defense, into the young player, and those lessons were later reinforced by both the town team coach Jeff Pickart and by his Legion team coach Art Holland (himself a former minor league player from Norway).  Elliott’s aptitude with a bat, however, was purely innate.

Those same newspaper stories paint a picture of a brilliant shortstop, a right-handed thrower and left-handed hitter who, at the age of sixteen, was the youngest player ever to chosen to play for the semi-pro team in nearby Amana.  By the time he was a senior in high school, Elliott was widely acknowledged as the best shortstop in the state, and batted an almost-unthinkable .640 during his final season.
In 1971, after that phenomenal senior season which capped a scholastic career that included five state titles, four selections as All-State shortstop, the “Earl Proctor” award for his play on the Cedar Rapids Legion team, and countless other plaudits, Elliott was chosen by the San Diego Padres in the sixth round of the Major League Baseball draft.  The eighteen year old was assigned to the Tri-City Dust Devils in Pasco, Washington.  Tri-City was then part of the Northwest League, a short-season “A” level team where young professionals got their first taste of playing the game as a business.

That year, 1971, Max batted .250 in over 200 at-bats in his abbreviate debut.  The following summer, still with Tri-City, his .263 batting average and solid fielding earned him a promotion past ‘high A’ ball and all the way to AA, to the Abilene Aces of the Texas League.
Double-A (AA) baseball is widely considered the make-or-break step for young prospects.  In his initial foray at that plateau, the nineteen –year old Elliott sustained his batting average at .257, an excellent mark for an infielder.  He returned to Alexandria in 1973, but distractions surrounding contractual negotiations grew, and his average slid to .240 over eighty games.  Max demanded the Padres “promote me, trade me, or release me”.  The Padres released him.

Max returned to Norway, and took up fast-pitch softball in 1974 as an outlet for his competitive drive.  The fact that he was a supremely talented hitter made him attractive to local, Cedar Rapids teams like “Welty Way” (a team that, in 1971, had won the Amateur Softball Association “Major” National Championship), “Modern Piping”, and “Kirby Vacuum”.  His performance at regional and national tournaments soon drew the attention of a club team from New Zealand.

Softball is part of the athletic DNA in New Zealand, and some of the more opportunistic Kiwi players invited Max to play for their team on occasion.  The relationship deepened, and for three years Elliott played six months in the US and six for the Poneke-Kilbirnie club in New Zealand.  He had married Sharon Schulte in 1975, but after the marriage ended, there was little to keep Max in America.
During a tournament with his New Zealand club, in Elliott’s first year ‘down under’, one of Poneke-Kilburnie’s opponents was the Poirura club in Wellington.  At the tournament, among the array of players Max met, one was Julie Ryan.  The two developed a relationship over the next few years, and eventually married.  They have two sons, Aaron and Jared, and both are following in their fathers footsteps as quality softball players. 

During his early years in NZ Max was hugely respected for both his fielding (at shortstop) and batting ability and his club, Poneke-Kilbirnie, went on to win many titles over this period..  He played for the Wellington regional (‘state’ equivalent) representative team at national championships, and once his New Zealand residency was approved, Max was selected for the national men’s softball team.  He was slated to attend the 1988 World Series in Canada, but unfortunately was compelled to withdraw from the team for personal reasons.  

By 1990, Max was playing for the “Red Lions” All-Star team in Wellington.  After his serious playing career ended in 2000, he continued to play at a more social level until 2009.  He and Julie remained closely tied to the sport as members of the Board of Directors of the “Poirura” softball club in Wellington.  Max still lives near Wellington, and now works for TELTRAC Communications (a major telecom activity throughout New Zealand), but he manages to return home to Norway every year.

Max specifically wishes to acknowledge the players from his early baseball days and says without them he wouldn’t have had the stats he had.  “Guys like Roger Boddicker (cousin of Mike) had more heart and determination than most of the guys who were fortunate to go onto a higher level.  Without guys like Roger we wouldn’t have succeeded.”  He also wishes to thank his parents, the supporters and the coaching staff who contributed to his success.

Max Elliott left Norway, but his legacy will last well beyond his lifetime.  He fondly recalls the cheering and appreciation of his high school teams and their amazing record…as the locals say, “Baseball is Norway.  Norway is Baseball.”  Max Elliott will, forever, be part of both.