Recently, I had the chance to interview four-time World Series champion Roberto Kelly about his incredible playing and coaching career. Kelly, a two-time Major-League All-Star who won a ring with the Yankees during his final season in the big leagues in 2000, was a big part of the San Francisco Giants becoming world champions three times in a five-year stretch as a part of their coaching staff.
Now, the Panama City native serves as Program 15 and New Balance Future Stars Series’ national hitting and outfield coordinator, and brings an incredible wealth of knowledge that he’s excited to share with the kids he’s working with.
In part one, Kelly spoke about how he got connected with P15 and spoke about his experience as a Major League All-Star. Here, we delve deeper into that, starting with his big hit in the 1992 installment of the mid-summer classic…
Mike Ashmore, Program 15: I think that 1992 All-Star Game appearance is the one that stands out for most people; you had a big two-run double in that one and replaced Ken Griffey, Jr. in center field…
Roberto Kelly: “It was a double down the left field line. I do remember that. And then I got to replace Griffey. My first All-Star Game, to get a chance and get a hit, that was all pretty cool.”
MA: You ended up playing on a bunch of different teams, and helped many of them get to the playoffs; the Dodgers in 1995, Seattle in 1997 and Texas in both 1998 and 1999. Did you kind of view yourself as a guy that teams were bringing to be that guy that could help get them over the hump and into the postseason?
RK: “You can look at it two ways, but the way I looked at it was the positive side; any time I got traded, for the most part I was going to a team that had a chance to go to the playoffs. I had to look at it as there was a team that thought of me enough to help them to get to that next step. I didn’t look at it as a team trying to get rid of me, I saw the other side where there was another team that saw something in the way I played that could help them get to the next level.”
MA: You came back to the Bronx in 2000 and finished your big league career where it started, with the Yankees. Unfortunately you got injured early that year, but could you sense that was going to be a special team?
RK: “In 2000, my last year with them, I ended up on the DL. I had Tommy John surgery that year. I played the first two weeks and then had the surgery, so I didn’t get to play in the playoffs. But I did get a ring. You talk baseball, you talk New York Yankees. Every player might not admit it, but at least one time they’d like to be a part of the New York Yankees. I was fortunate enough to sign with them and actually came up and play those years that I did with them. I got to accomplish something by being the center fielder for the New York Yankees. That’s pretty big. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to run around center field like Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio, all the greats. I was fortunate to be part of that.”
MA: Four World Series rings. Four. That blows my mind. Looking back, does that blow you away too that you were able to accomplish that much in the game?
RK: “It does. You think about the great players; for example one from my hometown, Rod Carew, and he’s got seven or eight batting titles and all the great numbers, but he never had a chance to win one. For me to get not only one, but four. Words can’t describe how blessed I am to be put in that position as a player, coach, whatever it is. That’s why everybody works so hard in the off-season and goes to spring training to get ready for the season, that’s the main goal. That’s the main goal for any coach or player, getting that ring.”
MA: Getting to win three as a coach, did it mean more to win them in that role?
RK: “As a player, I can’t really (speak on it), I didn’t play in it. As a coach, you’re very, very proud of it. You want to believe you had a little bit to do with it with the way you instruct the players and whatever help you gave them. As a coach, you’re proud. You coach these kids and you want to make sure your message, they get it. If you look at those Giants teams that we had, in no World Series were we favored. But the coaching staff, (Bruce) Bochy the manager and the front office did a good job putting together those teams. You’re proud of that, being a part of it. They’re the ones doing it in the game, but you want to believe getting them ready before the game is a big part of it.”
MA: Last thing I think I’d have for you kind of gets back to what you’re doing now with Program 15…over the course of your time with the Giants, what do you feel like you learned that you can apply towards the kids you’ll be working with now?
RK: “There’s several things. The coaching staff that we had, we were there for a long time, and we had different personalities and different ideas, but the good thing about it was we could put all those ideas together. Everybody has something to offer, so you can put those things together and come up with a great plan. It’s the same thing with Program 15. We have different guys doing different things, and we do debate about a lot of things, but we understand the main goal is taking Program 15 to the next level. What I learned from that is there’s going to be differences in opinions, but we are professional enough that we can come to an understanding. Coaching with the Giants, the main goal was getting in the playoffs and winning it. With Program 15, it’s to try to come up with the best ideas for these kids to play the game right so they have a chance to make it to where we did.”
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