Former Red Sox pitcher explains why he thought about not coming back to play

Rob Bradford
June 24, 2020 - 10:25 am
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When it comes to the upcoming 60-game Major League Baseball regular season there are a lot of unanswered questions and legitimate concerns.

It's the same uncomfortable dynamic that has already led some NBA players to not participate in their league's plan to return in Orlando.

It's why for many MLB players returning -- despite the agreement between the Players Association and owners -- wasn't a no-brainer. The dangers of the coronavirus has most players thinking twice about the risks of suiting back up. Dodgers pitcher Joe Kelly is no exception.

Kelly, his wife Ashley, and their 4-year-old son Knox just welcomed twins into their family. So when it came to integrating back into the world of a baseball team, some important factors were considered by the former Red Sox pitcher.

"I thought about it," said Kelly on the Bradfo Sho podcast when talking about potentially not playing. "My wife has joked about it but I know she was dead-ass serious. “Don’t even play.” The only reason I would play is my teammates. I feel morally right all the way up until that point until someone on my team is like, ‘Bro, I’m playing, just play. You need to play. Honor your contract. Play. We’re trying to win.’ That’s the only thing that would be holding me back. Everything else, I would be fine with not playing."

Kelly drew on another experience from earlier in this life when looking at the decision, citing the same sort of impetus for playing baseball this time around as he experienced heading into high school.

"It’s the same situation I was in during 8th-grade. I quit baseball," he remembered. "I wasn’t going to play baseball in high school. Out. Played too much. Worn out. The coach wore me out. Played six days a week. I skateboarded every day. I broke my arm pitching and that’s why I stopped pitching. I fractured the growth plate in my right elbow. Pitched every tournament, you name it. Played with Hank Conger, all the big leaguers at that age. Eighth-grade I shut it down, played football and said, ‘I’m done with baseball.’ Got to high school and my homies, my friends were the ones who said, ‘Play baseball.’ I was like, ‘Dad, I’m out. I quit. I’m done.’ He was like, ‘OK, perfect.’ I said, ‘I’m playing football,’ and he loved it because he was a football guy.

"So when I got to high school I got convinced by my friends to play baseball again. It’s kind of weird how it’s full circle. That’s the part I’m in right now. I would be fine saying, ‘I’m not playing this year. I’m not risking it.’ You’ve got twins. You’ve got a 4-year-old. Who knows what the coronavirus entails in 50 years, what it will do to you. No one knows. So I could easily have been like, ‘I’m doing what is right for my family.’ But then I would get a text from DP (David Price) or Mookie (Betts) or any one of my teammates, any one of my fellow pitchers, any one of my fellow hitters and then I would feel bad. That’s the shitty part about it. That was the only thing I probably couldn’t live with."

Kelly will be reporting for "spring training" with his Dodgers at Dodger Stadium, starting July 1.