SPORTS: Roberto Kelly has plenty to tell the kids

Pub date August 4, 2008
WriterTim Redmond
SectionSF Blog

By A.J. Hayes

Roberto Kelly had all the ear-marks of a pre-fab Yankee Legend when he broke in with the Bronx Bombers in the late 1980s.

As a NY Yankee

Scouts drooled over the young center fielder, touting him as the next great “Five-Tool Player.” Kelly hit for high average; whacked home runs; he was a graceful fielder; possessed a killer arm and ran like the wind.

In other words, the Panama native – who is currently a San Francisco Giants coach – was stacking up to be the next Joe DiMaggio or Mickey Mantle.

In his first game in the majors in 1987, a 22- year old Kelly walked out to center field at Yankee Stadium and was greeted by 45,347 fans. Despite knocking knees, Kelly brashly stole two bases and scored a run in New York’s 4-0 win over the visiting Royals. The speedy outfielder quickly became a fan favorite.

As a Cincinnati Red

“The first day I made it to the big leagues was unbelievable,” Kelly told us recently. “You’re talking about a kid coming from Panama who didn’t know if he was going to make it, and then you walk out and see a packed Yankee Stadium. It was that defining moment for your career.”

It didn’t seem outlandish at all to believe that that Kelly world star for the Yankees for the next dozen seasons and end his career in pinstripes – just as Mr. Coffee and the Mick had done before him.

As an Atlanta Brave

Well, technically all that did occur – but it didn’t exactly play out as scripted.