The Pittsburgh Pirates took a tough one on the chin last night with a disappointing 9-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the National League Divisional Series. 1998 Mt. Lebanon High School graduate Donnie Kelly is no stranger to the ups and downs of postseason baseball. He’s played in 13 playoff games over the past two seasons with the Detroit Tigers. Tonight, he’ll suit up again for another October playoff run for Detroit as they take on the Oakland Athletics. However, as he packed his bags in Detroit for his west coast trip on Tuesday night, he was glued to the television for the exciting Pirates 6-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Wildcard.
“I couldn’t take my eyes off it,” said Kelly. “I had a lot to do to get ready for my game. I’m packing my suitcase and found myself going back to the Pirates game. You could see the excitement and you could feel the energy through the television. It was cool and they deserve it.”
In addition to the Buccos being his hometown team, Kelly’s rooting interest is amplified due to also being the brother-in-law of Pirates 2nd Baseman Neil Walker — he says they text and chat daily.
“Having been in the postseason, I always try to explain to Neil what it’s like,” said Kelly. “Now 21 years in waiting, he’s getting his chance with the Pirates. Hopefully, they’ll have a lot more games to come this postseason. We played them earlier this season, but out of 162 games, I was a fan of the Pirates for 158 games.”
Later tonight in Oakland, Kelly will get his chance to shine in the playoffs in Game 1 of the American League Divisional Series. He says he won’t be starting, but he will come off the bench as needed for the Tigers. As an often-used utility player for manager Jim Leyland, Kelly has learned how to deal with stressful situations in the playoffs.
“It’s one of those things in how Skip (Leyland) is going to use you,” said Kelly. “You try to relax because there is a lot of pressure. We’re going out there and going to leave it all out on the field. Moments like this never get old.”
Kelly, who grew up on Kenmont Avenue, is getting a lot of support from friends and relatives in Mt. Lebanon. He said that everyone is excited for him. His mother came to Detroit to watch his sons Brett, 4, and Luke, 2. This allowed his wife Carrie to make the trip to Oakland to support him on the road.
You can catch Kelly and the Tigers take on the Athletics tonight at 9:30 p.m. on TBS. As for the Pirates, they will play Game 2 of the NLDS in St. Louis at 1 p.m. this afternoon on MLB Network.