Scott Marks 2:48 p.m., May 23
As I sat in my seat and watched Luke Gregerson get the final out of the game on Monday’s set against the Braves, a thought donned on me:
Earlier in the evening it was with jubilance that I watched Casey Kelly take the mound for the first time in his Major League career. As most media outlets would mention, Casey Kelly was a pivotal part to the 2010 Adrian Gonzalez trade with the Boston Red Sox. This trade would send the Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox and net three players: Reymond Fuentes, Anthony Rizzo, and a 21 year old Casey Kelly for the struggling Padres organization. Despite the immediate reaction of most fans, not being able to have immediate MLB talent, I have always maintained a personal optimism that one day the Padres would get back what they gave up. Admittedly, I had not done that much research on Casey Kelly. I did not google Minor League stats, look for scouting reports, or try to find a video online. I knew that Casey Kelly was a converted middle infielder that was capable of throwing a fastball somewhere in the mid-90’s, and I had to be there. My initial impression of Casey was that of indifference, when he went out to warm up prior to the top of the first inning. Then Casey began to pitch, and he looked like he knew what he was doing. He threw a good fastball, appearing to have some cut to it, consistently hitting 94 mph in the first inning. It was apparent that this was a pitch he was incredibly comfortable with as I do not recall seeing much off speed until after the third batter of the inning Jason Heyward ripped a ball down the right field line. Although scattering a few two other hits and walking two, Kelly began to change mix in a curveball that had a hard bite to it. Kelly and Yasmani Grandal appeared to be on the same page while setting up hitters, and keeping some of the Braves off balance with a solid mixture of the hard and soft stuff. Kelly lasted six complete innings finishing with 87 pitches to his credit. During those six inning Kelly struck out four, walked two, and gave up three hits. His performance left the crowd just north of 20,000 desiring more, despite him coming off lengthy rehab. Besides his pitching performance Kelly took a few ABs as well, lining a ball up the middle to start what appeared to be a rally. Kelly also flashed some of his defensive prowess by fielding a softly hit ball in front of the mound, and turning to throw the ball to second base initiating a 1-6-3 double play. For clarity this piece is not meant to sell you something. It is not meant to claim that Casey Kelly is the next coming of Justin Verlander (since we already missed the first one, thank you Kevin Towers). I am not declaring Kelly a future Hall of Famer or even a long term San Diego Padre player. What I do sell is optimism. An optimistic outlook to being a Padre fan and a reason to pay attention to the Padres once every five days. In 2008 the people of the United States voted a candidate into the White House based on Hope and Change. Now, I do not necessarily consider myself qualified to speak on politics, but that is what America desired. Whether we got Hope and Change nationally is left for someone else to write. On Monday when Casey Kelly took the hill at Petco Park for the first time, the fans received the hope. Today, Wednesday, with the official change of the Padres ownership, the fans got the change. My thought on Monday night was most often in life you will have no idea if you will be a part of history, or no idea you witnessed history until the historical event ends. I have no idea what Casey Kelly’s first start as a MLB pitcher means or what will become of his MLB career. I do know this. I was there and will continue to go back as a spectator, a student, and as someone who loves the game. When I walk through the gates at Petco Park I will remain excitedly optimistic in large part to Casey Kelly.