Call him the little engine that could, call him the teacher’s pet, just make sure you call Don Kelly‘s name when the final playoff roster is set for the Detroit Tigers. Kelly has essentially locked up a roster spot for the postseason and while there have been a few years where he may of been undeserving of that spot, Kelly has actually earned his spot with arguably his best season of his long utility career.
Hitting a career .232 is not too inspiring, and I know you are only allowed 25 roster spots which may lead some to argue that Matt Tuiasosopo should get the nod instead, but you can’t discount the intangible that Kelly has brought and will continue to bring to the Tigers, which is versatility.
It’s that versatility that makes Kelly like a son to Jim Leyland. It’s his hard-nosed, never-give-up attitude that has allowed him to stay on a major league roster even though he lacks the overwhelming athleticism that you would expect one would need to play on any roster, let alone a roster as deep and talented as the Tigers’. That’s not to say Kelly isn’t athletic, it takes a lot of skill to be able to say you can play just about any position at a major league level, including pitching. Still, Kelly more resembles a guy who comes to your door to tell you about the wonders of the Church of Latter-Day Saints or about a revolutionary new vacuum that is sweeping the nation.
Don Kelly doesn’t sell vacuums, however, and he isn’t a guy to take lightly. He proved that when he hit the home run in Game 5 of the playoffs two years ago that propelled the Tigers past the New York Yankees. You can laugh about Leyland’s love for Kelly, you can bring up stats that say he shouldn’t be on the field in October, but Kelly is going to be on that field and don’t be surprised if it’s him who ends up saving the Tigers one of these days, and I don’t mean by the Church of Latter-Day Saints.