Zack Kelly got a big surprise after his MLB debut on Monday
A player’s major-league debut is always a momentous occasion.
It’s the culmination of a lifelong dream actualized through immense hard work and perseverance, with a bit of luck mixed in.
But for Zack Kelly, who made his big-league debut with the Boston Red Sox on Monday, it was also a full-circle moment, as the scout who gave him his first shot showed up to surprise his former signee. According to Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe,
"“Neil Avent, the Oakland scout who signed Zack Kelly in 2017, flew in for game and was there to congratulate him after his debut. Kelly was an undrafted free agent from a Div. II school. But Avent liked him and signed him to a $500 bonus.When Kelly heard Avent was here, he went out to the hallway outside the clubhouse, still half in his uniform, and gave him a big hug.”"
How can you not be romantic about baseball?
Avent also liked a tweet from Kelly’s alma mater, Newberry College, congratulating him on becoming their first alumnus to make it to the majors.
Kelly’s arrival in the majors comes at an unhappy time for the Sox, whose bullpen has cost them wins all season long. Their 4.54 ERA coming into Monday’s game ranked 27th in the league. It was never a particularly dominant group to begin with, but they’re overworked, too, with all the starting rotation injuries.
It makes you wonder why Kelly didn’t get the call sooner. Over 44 Triple-A appearances this season, the 27-year-old righty posted a 2.72 ERA and 34.4% strikeout rate. He looked like a pro in his first big-league inning, too; he struck out the first two batters he faced before giving up a single to one of the Twins’ best hitters, Luis Arraez. Thankfully, Reese McGuire snagged Arraez as he took off for second base.
After the game, Avent told Abraham,
"“He’s one of my guys. I thought he could pitch. He’s had a tough go, but he got here. I’m proud of him.”"
Kelly’s ‘tough go’ included being released by both the A’s and Angels before being picked up by the Sox. In between the Angels and Sox, he had a ligament reattachment procedure on his elbow. He told the Globe that he wasn’t sure he’d get another chance to play baseball.
He made the most of his chance last night, and after doing so well, will likely get more spots to prove himself going forward.
Hopefully, Avent’s surprise helped make up for someone who was unable to be there. While Kelly’s parents were able to get to Minnesota to see their son’s debut, his wife was stuck at home. She’s nine months pregnant with their first son, and her due date is on Saturday.
What a week to be Zack Kelly.