Don Kelly continues to represent Point Park baseball in the Major Leagues
May 30, 2013 at 11:50 p.m. ET By: Zachary Weiss, Point Park journalism student
Editor's Note: Point Park alum Don Kelly continues to represent his alma mater in the Major Leagues as a member of the Detroit Tigers. Point Park student Zachary Weiss caught up with Kelly when the Tigers played at the Pirates May 30, 2013.
PITTSBURGH -- Coming home is always a great time for Don Kelly, however, the Point Park University alum again did so as a member of the visiting team when his Detroit Tigers visited his hometown Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park for the final game of the series on Thursday.
An inductee into the Pioneer Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010, Don Kelly has seen it all in the major leagues as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Arizona Diamondbacks and the Tigers.
In the off-season, Kelly was re-signed by the Tigers as a non-roster invitee and found himself in a similar spot to earlier in his career as he had to fight his way onto the Tigers’ roster.
“You never lose that drive that you are playing for your job,” Kelly said in the Tigers' clubhouse prior to Thursday's game. “Every year has been that way for me, and it is no different this year.”
It certainly does not hurt Kelly that his manager is Jim Leyland. Leyland attended Kelly’s 2010 Hall of Fame induction, managed the Pirates from 1986-96 and still resides in the city.
“He knows what I bring to the table and it’s a fun team to be a part of,” Kelly said.
Kelly has a ton of admirers back in Pittsburgh including his brother-in-law Neil Walker. The two regularly text and meet up a lot during the offseason.
“I get to play against him so many times, with us playing Detroit every year and every year it’s always fun,” Walker said. “Seeing him play with the Tigers is great. I got to see him play in the World Series last year, which was awesome, but I know he always loves coming back here to Pittsburgh and seeing his family.”
The thing heard most often about Kelly is how nice he is when fans meet him. Walker is one of those who feel that way.
“He’s one of the nicest guys I know and an extremely knowledgeable Major League Baseball player and person,” Walker said. “He’s very outgoing and has helped me out a lot in my career as far as playing the game and handling everything that goes along with growing as a person. I couldn’t ask for a better brother-in-law.”
At the plate, though, Kelly is not having his best season hitting .186 with just 13 hits on the year. Still, he looks at the big picture.
“I feel that batting average is only part of it,” Kelly said. “I think my at-bats have been good. When you don’t have many, the batting average fluctuates a little bit. I’ve had some key hits and the on-base percentage is good.”
Among those who understand the benefit of having Kelly on the team is 2011 AL Cy Young award winner and MVP Justin Verlander. When Kelly is on the field, Verlander trusts him no matter where he plays.
“He’s somebody that can come in and do everything,” Verlander said. “He can play any position he is asked and has even pitched for us. It’s a great thing to have on your ball club – a guy like that who is ready when called upon and will do whatever he can to help the team win.”
A true Pioneer, Kelly still keeps tabs on the Point Park baseball team. While he knows the team fell short of the NAIA World Series this year with a loss in the NAIA Opening Round, he offered advice for the Pioneers as they prepare for the offseason and 2014 season.
“In this game, especially in a tournament like that, if you have one bad game you’re in the loser’s bracket and have to play your way through,” Kelly said. “It’s tough to do that, and you can’t really put your whole season in one tournament.
“You have to look at it as a whole, I know with us (the Tigers) we didn’t win the World Series but it was a successful year, and you have to keep working and go back at it next year.”
The Pirates beat the Tigers, 1-0, on Thursday on Russell Martin’s RBI single in the 11th inning. Pittsburgh took three of four in the series, which was split between the two cities. After dropping the first game in Detroit, the Pirates won the next three.