Point Park alum Don Kelly makes Detroit Tigers Opening Day roster once again
March 27, 2013 at 9:15 p.m. ET
Don Kelly was an NAIA First-Team All-American at Point Park from 1999-01. Photo courtesy of Detroit Tigers.
LAKELAND, Fla. -- For the fourth year in a row, Point Park University baseball alum Don Kelly has made the Opening Day roster of the Detroit Tigers, according to the MLB.com story posted on March 27.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who attended Kelly's induction into Point Park's Pioneer Athletic Hall of Fame on Oct. 10, 2010, said Wednesday (March 27) that unless something changes over the last few days of camp, that the utility man has made the team.
Kelly beat the odds and made the team as a non-roster invitee. He signed a minor-league deal with the Tigers just before spring training after being released just after the World Series last year.
It is the fourth year in a row that Kelly, 33, will head north with the Major League club. An eighth-round selection by Detroit in the 2001 draft, Kelly was an NAIA First-Team All-American shortstop at Point Park from 1999-01. He is the school's hitting leader with a .413 career average.
Kelly is hitting .304 with four homers, four doubles and seven RBIs so far this spring for the Tigers. Battling for a roster spot in this the final week of spring training, Kelly stated his case this Tuesday, March 26 when he was 4 for 4 with a home run, two doubles and was a triple shy of a cycle in a 6-5 loss to Atlanta.
Besides the four-hit day, another highlight for Kelly this spring was a two-run homer off all-star Roy Halladay on March 12. That got his average up to its high-water mark of .320 before a slump that followed put Kelly's spot into some question. But he broke out of it with his big week that has his average back above .300.
Keeping the average up has always been a key for Kelly, who has proven his worth on the Major League club mainly because he's a do-it-all utilityman. Kelly is known as someone who has played all nine positions in his big-league career and is a valuable asset as a backup in the outfield and at first and third base for this year's Tigers team.
This is the fifth time in his career that Kelly has made an Opening Day roster with the first being in 2007 when he made his big-league debut with his hometown Pirates. After a few years in the minors that ended up with him being picked back up by the Detroit organization, he was a September call-up of the Tigers in 2009.
The Tigers' missed out on the playoffs that year with a loss in the play-in game. But Kelly carried the momentum of a strong September 2009 and made the Tigers' Opening Day roster for the first time in 2010. He did so again in 2011 and 2012. Kelly was in the majors for all of the last three seasons except for being sent down to Toledo in August 2012.
But Kelly played well enough to make the Tigers' postseason roster in 2012, and he helped Detroit make it to the World Series. His big moment of that postseason was a walk-off sacrifice fly in Game 2 of the ALDS versys Oakland. Kelly had been no stranger to playoff heroics as he hit a big home run in a 3-2 win in Game 5 of the 2011 ALDS versus New York.
Kelly has played in 362 career Major League games and has a .232 average with 17 home runs and 65 RBIs.