Live From the AFL: Don Kelly

Some players play politics in interviews, they never question anyone, they agree with everything. Don Kelly isn't exactly Howard Stern, but he's pretty clear about where he wants to be.

"I've always been a shortstop, that's where I played growing up, that's what I was drafted as, that's where I want to play," Kelly said as his Mesa Solar Sox waited for batting practice. For Kelly, the fact that's he's playing anywhere, playing at all, has got to be a pleasant surprise.

After all, hearing, 'You're not getting called up,' or even worse, 'You're getting sent down,' doesn't hold a candle to what Don Kelly heard from his doctor in 2004.

What Kelly heard was, 'I don't know what's wrong with you.'

"It was a scary situation, and for a long time they didn't know what was wrong with my shoulder. It ended up being a nerve problem, caused by a knot in my left hip."


"Yeah, that was maybe the weirdest part of it, but I'm 100% now, and just happy to be playing." Kelly says with a smile.

And he looks like it, which isn't hard to believe. So little was understood about his injury that even after he was diagnosed, nor only could the doctors not give him a timetable for his return, they weren't sure he'd return at all.

"We just didn't know anything. At first we didn't know what was wrong, and then we didn't know how long it would take me to get back. Even after I got back they weren't sure at first if it could happen again."

That type of situation will certainly help you find your love for the game, and Kelly has certainly found his. He's the first out on the field to take ground balls at shortstop during batting practice, and the first back into the cage when his group is called in for batting practice. He smiles a lot, is relaxed, you'd never know this is a kid who might parlay a good AFL campaign into a big league roster spot next year with the Detroit Tigers.

"I'm working hard on my defense, I've been playing exclusively shortstop here, and that's where I like to play the most, but I know I'm capable of playing everywhere. I'm just trying to get better everyday."

Kelly knows how important the AFL can be, Chris Shelton tore this league up last year, winning the AFL MVP award last season, and parlayed that into a fantastic rookie campaign with the Tigers. On a club that seems to always be in flux, he knows he's got the opportunity to do the same.

"You're playing against the best players, the best pitchers, and it's just great competition. I think this league can really prepare you for the big leagues, and I think Shelton and some of the other guys who've come out of this league and had success prove that."

And Kelly looks like he could become another example. He's hitting .346 through the first seven games, with three RBI and a pair of stolen bases. The biggest question mark about Kelly has been his power numbers, he's never hit more than nine round trippers at any stop in the minors, but his 6'4" body can certainly hold more than the 190lbs he currently listed at, and the power should come with time.

If his future is at third base, as has been rumored, it will have to, but if he breaks into the bigs as a utility man, then he'll have time to develop power, and he knows it.

"Whatever gets me to the big leagues is what I'll do," Kelly says smiling again, "shortstop, third base, the outfield, I've played all over the place, and I have no problems doing that, I think it can only help me in the future."

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