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Whirlwind December brings D-backs pitcher Merrill Kelly back to Arizona

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Merrill Kelly throws against the Cleveland Indians during the first inning of a spring training baseball game, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)


Growing up in Arizona, playing for the hometown Sun Devils and Diamondbacks was always the dream for pitcher Merrill Kelly.

Little did he know that playing across the Pacific Ocean in the Korean Baseball League would be the route he would have to take to get there.

Kelly was drafted three times – out of high school in the 37th round in 2007, after two years of playing at Yavapai College in Prescott in 2009 and after playing for the Arizona State Sun Devils in 2010 – but was not able to crack an opening day roster in 2014 and decided to play overseas in the KBL.

“Yeah, at first it was way over my head because when I was approached, I didn’t even know there was a KBL,” Kelly said on the Burns & Gambo show on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

“I had heard about guys going to Japan for a while now, but I hadn’t even known that there was an organized Korean league over there. So, I kind of had to wrap my mind around the fact that there even was a league. But once it went, it went.”

After four years in Korea, Kelly attracted the attention of the D-backs.

He received a contract offer from the organization on Dec. 1, a Saturday, and signed the deal on Monday.

But it wasn’t just an ordinary weekend for the 30-year-old journeyman. Saturday was Kelly’s wedding day.

“That was probably the fastest week of my life,” Kelly said.

“So, they had an offer in at 7:30 that morning. We got married that night. We agreed to what is now the deal on Monday, and I flew out for our honeymoon, signed the paperwork in the airport on the way to Cabo for our honeymoon.”

For the Arizona native, D-backs fans are hoping that his honeymoon with the team goes as well as the honeymoon with his wife.

Kelly’s repertoire as a pitcher includes a fastball that sits in the mid-90s but can touch 97 mph, a changeup that he uses as an out pitch and a developing curveball that he says has improved during his stint in Korea.

The D-backs can only hope the offseason thrill and excitement for the newly married man translates to on-field success.

As for the whirlwind week, it’s likely a story that Kelly and his family will remember for the rest of their lives.

“It was exciting. I couldn’t have written it up any better,” Kelly said.

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