Interview: A Star of David in the Dugout – Ty Kelly

I have been following Ty Kelly’s career for a while (as I follow all Jewish athletes). From my vantage point almost no one is having more fun on the field as Kelly. From Twitter posts and enthusiasm in the dugout, Kelly enjoys the game. He has been a crucial, every day lineup guy for both the WBC and Olympic Israel teams. We caught up recently and here is a little more about one of the stars of the dugout.

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1) You were a two-sport athlete in High School. How did you decide to gravitate to baseball? 

I loved basketball growing up and especially in high school because tons of my friends would come watch the games and the atmospheres were so much fun. I ended up sticking with baseball essentially because I was better at it. I never thought much about playing in the major leagues because I didn’t know how good I was or what it would take. But I definitely wouldn’t be where I’m at today without playing a variety of sports throughout my life.
2) You began your college career Loyola Marymount. Why did you transfer to UC Davis? 

Our head coach and I had very different personalities and I think he assumed I was just a typical freshman who wasn’t ready to handle the responsibilities of being on a D1 college baseball team. It was a big learning experience for me and luckily, I was able to transfer to UC Davis where the head coach was much more relaxed and let the guys be whoever they were. 

3) After a solid college career, you got drafted in the 13th round. What was the experience like? Where did you believe you would be drafted?

My experience of getting drafted was that I was taking a final in college when I got the call I had been drafted. I had to field a few calls during the test, so the professor let me take it in a different room so as to not disturb the students. I was hoping to be drafted in the top 10 rounds but at the end of the day if you are not in the top few rounds, basically everyone has the same chance to move through the organization.

4) You have moved around the field and played many positions. Which position are you most comfortable at and why?

I enjoy playing third base the most because the plays are so unique. Every ball has some kind of spin on it and you have to trust your first reaction or it will eat you up. I also enjoy second base because the short throw allows you a lot more opportunities to make great plays. No matter how far you have to range any direction, you have a chance to make the play.

5) Best pitcher you have ever faced? Best player you have played with?

The best pitcher I have faced is Stephen Strasburg. I don’t know that he has the best pure stuff but I faced him a number of times from 2009 in college through the last couple of years in the majors, spring training, and rehab MILB starts, and I never got a single hit off him. I walked once in college but that’s about it. 

Keeping with the theme of the Nationals, I always thought Howie Kendrick was about the most solid hitter I ever played with. He can hit .320 over the course of a season and probably half of his outs are screaming line drives directly at fielders. It’s just rare to see him go a full game without squaring up 2-3 balls.

6) You just announced that you are hanging up your cleats. Are you satisfied with your baseball career? What would you have done differently?

I am definitely satisfied with my career. Of course, I will feel I could have done better in certain situations, but I have no regrets in the way I went about playing and trying to get better. All I would do differently is an attempt to work more on the mental aspect of the game. Just being able to enjoy the experience as much as possible. 

7) What is next for you in your career?

Fortunately, I still have the Olympics left! Not a bad send-off for me. But I hope to stay in the game in some capacity, possibly coaching kids at a low level and trying to impact their skill, as well as the way they enjoy the game.

8) You have been crucial to Team Israel’s success. Why has it been so important to you? What has it meant to you?

Just seeing people wearing Star of David hats and shirts has been amazing. The opportunity to play for something that is greater than yourself and your own career is not a regular occurrence for athletes. So, it’s amazing for me to be someone that inspires a sense of pride in people.

9) Where can people find you on social media?

@tykelly11 on twitter and Instagram. I’m starting a baseball book about my career and just life as an athlete in general!

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