The unknown superstar

John Browne
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His stats are impressive, so why was Jon Kelly ignored for nationals?

Jon Kelly won the Molson St. John’s senior baseball league triple crown for a second straight year this season when he amassed a .538 average, 27 RBI and seven home runs. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

He’s the best player few people outside of Lions Park know much about.

The Kelly’s Pub Molson Bulldogs outfielder’s stats speak for themselves, even if he flies under the radar as far as publicity and respect is concerned.

Given his dominance the past four years in the local senior men’s softball league, it was logical to assume Jon Kelly would have been added to the provincial representatives for the Canadian men’s fastpitch championship recently held in Owen Sound, Ont., which would have, undoubtably, raised his profile considering the elite level of the competition.

But that didn’t happen.

Why is the question, but are there really any specific answers?

To start with, there’s certainly nothing wrong with Kelly’s statistics. They are impeccable.

Kelly won a record second straight triple crown in the Molson St. John’s Senior Men’s Softball League this season, and his third in four years.

His .538 average this season tied the record for highest batting average in a season, which was set in 1994 by Jeff Kirk of Stanley's Sports Pub.

Kelly’s triple crown this year also included 27 RBIs, while he tied Jason Hill of West Side Charlies Bud Light with seven home runs apiece.

All of the stats were personal bests for Kelly.

Kelly said while he’s more concerned with his team’s success than personal stats, he concedes winning back-to-back triple crowns is, “pretty cool.”

 The 6-3 29-year-old from Holyrood picked up the game around 12 or 13 years of age and says, as far as he can recall, he’s always been able to hit.

“Ha, I guess it was just natural,” he says with a chuckle.

Of all his hitting stats, Kelly says his RBIs, “are probably the most important part for me.”

Driving in runs, he says, contributes to a winning team and, “that’s the only thing I care about.”

So why, in the face of the impressive stats, was Kelly not picked up by West Side Charlies Bud Light to represent the province in the nationals?

West Side went on to win a silver medal in the tournament. Still, Kelly’s absence, understandably, raised a few eyes around the league.

John Farrell, who has played with Kelly for at least 10 years, described it as “sad” that his teammate wasn’t added to the roster.

“I think there’s a little rift between West Side and Jon,” said Farrell. “There could be more to it than I know. But I don’t think West Side has too much time for him.”

Farrell describes Kelly as, “competitive … a team player and a good fella and a great ball player,” before noting, “He gets pretty intense during the games.

“Sometimes it takes him a little while to cool down, and sometimes you have to tell him to cool down,” added Farrell. “I understand because I can be intense at times, too.

“But there is nobody who loves the game more than Jon. He isn’t a high-maintenance player and, in all the time we’ve played together, I haven't had any issues with him on or off the field.

“Sure,” notes Farrell, “he has exchanged a few words with opponents at times, just as many of us have. If that has led to someone or some teams disliking him so much it would keep a Newfoundland team from asking a player of his calibre to go to the nationals, in whatever role, then that is very hard to understand.”

Mark Dwyer, who coached Imagewear Custom Apparel to the 2011 provincial senior men’s softball championship, played with Kelly at the 2007 nationals in St. John’s, and says the big outfielder was a great teammate.

“He didn’t play much, but he was a cheerleader for me,” said Dwyer.

He’s been described by some opposing players as distant, with a personality that rubs people the wrong way, although others have said he’s changed (for the better) in recent years.

“He doesn’t come to the ball park to make friends. He comes to play ball. That’s just his personality.

“He’s a bit bit of a mystery man,” Dwyer said. “He doesn’t say a whole lot.”

Dwyer described Kelly as, “playing with an edge” and said he is, “not fun to play against.”

“If he gets a triple, he’s not going to talk to the third baseman.

“He’s a good, but not great, outfielder, and I think he’ll admit that. But the guy can swing a stick,” Dwyer said.

When Kelly was asked how good an outfielder he was, he replied: ”A little better hitter, I guess.”

Dwyer, meanwhile, said, “any team that leaves this province to play in the nationals and doesn’t take Jon Kelly is making a mistake.”

For his part, Kelly said he didn’t want to be drawn into any controversy and initially said “no comment” when asked abut the snub.

“It’s kind of a sore point, yeah,” he finally admitted when pressed.

“Would you be sore if you did what I did the last couple of years and didn’t get picked up?,” he answered rhetorically

“They had great players on that (West Side Charlies) team, so maybe they just didn’t have any room for me … I’m not sure.”

He did admit that not being picked for the nationals will give him “a little bit” of incentive for next season.

Maybe that’s just the ‘edge’ he needs.

Organizations: Softball League

Geographic location: Lions Park, Owen Sound, Holyrood Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • Clyde Power
    September 19, 2011 - 18:06

    As a former sports reporter and current Metro St. John's umpire, I feel eminently qualified to offer my take on this controversy. While indisputable that Jon Kelly has amassed staggering statistics in local play, his detractors will point to the fact that he has not had to face the league's best arm in teammate, Sean Cleary, and has put up his numbers mostly against pitching inferior to the caliber on display in the latter stages of the national tournament. That being said, his lofty status and consistency in the middle of the defending champion Bulldogs' batting order would appear to have been enough to merit him serious consideration for a West Side roster spot. Although there is a history of bad blood between the clubs, and certain players in particular, the WSC braintrust was not at all reluctant to add elite performers Cleary and Blair Ezekiel in spite of the fact that there may be unfinished business after the latter stuck midget-aged player, Jeremy O'Reilly, in the back earlier this season and precipitated a heated exchange of words that very nearly emptied the dugouts. In the absence of the battle proven, Colin Abbott, who is winding down a sensational Hall of Fame career, my sense is that Kelly deserved a place on the team for his prowess at the plate and would have provided another option either as a designated hitter or a threat off the bench in a key situation during a game. It is debatable whether his presence would have made a difference in the outcome of the championship game, but alas, we shall never know for sure. I suspect that Jon Kelly will return to national competition as early as next year in Fredericton, and have the opportunity to demonstrate that he belongs and is ready for prime time.

  • fan
    September 19, 2011 - 16:24

    The team came 2nd and were within a couple of hits of a gold medal. I think they did just fine without the man. However, if you think he wasnt selected because of a rift. then why would they take Blair Ezekiel? I've watched a few games this year and from what I saw, he was just as involved or more in this "feud" between the 2 teams. The bottom line is, WSC won provincials in 2010 and they had the right to select whoever they wanted! No different then 2009, CBC went to Nationals, how many guys "could" they have picked up but didn't?

  • McLovin
    September 18, 2011 - 20:52

    Marty are you suggesting they reward the trophy to the first place team of the round robin? If so, it's the dumbest thing I ever heard.......It's not as if the NHL, MLB and NFL dont have playoffs or anything like that right? They just give it to the first place finisher in the regular season....yeah right, anyways dont blame Kitchener because the Atlanta Braves....oops I mean Team NL repeated the annual choke in the Gold Medal Game.......

  • Unbiased Fan
    September 18, 2011 - 13:18

    I'm glad that somebody finally wrote about this and acknowledge Johnny's hard work and accomplishments. I've known Johnny personally for about 4-5years and knew of him since we kids playing against one another since we were 12+. There definately is two-sides to every story, but if you hang arounf Lions Park any given tuesday/Thursday or Sundau it does not take long to figure out what is going on. Westside had a great showing in this year's nationals and came 1 game away from a perfect tournament...could Johnny have helped them along the way, who knows?..but one things for certain, he definately wouldn't have hurt them. When you have a player hitting over .500 and wins the triple crown title 3-of-4 years then obviously he should be a shoe-in for atleast a DH regardless of his fielding abilities. The comment above " just because he can hit over .500 in the local league, does not mean that he can hit the pitching of some of the best pitchers in the world" has to be the most foolish statement to date on this site. Don't try to belittle the mans accomplishments!..There are 4 teams in this league and nobody else can seem to have those batting stats..not even the elite players such as Mullaly, Ezekiel, Hill, etc...Which brings me to the next comment about Johnny's "Bad Attitude" doubt about it he has a competitive edge and a winning passion for ther game, but go look at the game sheets for the Lions Park mens fastpitch league and see how many of the "elite" players above have been thrown out on the regular basis for unsportsmanlike conduct on the field, so there goes that theory. At the end of the day you can say Westside had a full crew which is true, but I could name 3-4 players they took along on the bench that I would have replaced in a second to have a batter like Johnny on hand. In my opinion Johnny was not selected because he is not a favorite among the "elite players" mentioned above and they have alot of pull with the coach who is also the father of one of the players. Maybe somebody should Interview coach Hill to see what he has to say....that could be interesting.

    • Player
      September 19, 2011 - 17:41

      First of all, I'm not going to belittle Johnny's accomplishments. Johnny had a great regular seson here locally and deserves to be acknowledged for his success, along with many others who had outstanding seasons. Theres a lot of thought that goes into selecting players to go away to a National tournament. Westside Charlies/Bud Light won the right to go away by winning last years Nationals, so guess what, every player on that team gets the opportunity to go first until the turn it down, so its not like they can say alright we are picking up 12 new players, there is only so much room. Secondly, yeah Johnny has had a lot of run in with Westside, as he has with every other team in the league, chemistry is a major factor when picking a team. Thirdly, Johnny is an outfielder. Westside's outfiield consisted of 3 Canadian National Team members, so you have to take a look at what you need, ie. speed, defense, and clutch hitting, not saying Johnny isn't a clutch hitter but there are many players on the team with proven track records against the big boys accross the Country, which most of you guys don't get the chance to witness here locally. A ball team isn't made up of 17 Clean-up hitters. Heck, the best hitter and most feared hitter in the Country, never mind league, Colin Abbott wasn't on the roster either. Westside didn't need hitting, when they last couple spots were filled, but I understand by your comments, some of you have no idea about the process. Stats are not the tell all of a ball player, and although important, not always the determining factor when selecting a team. What about our MVP of the biggest Tournamet here that was just played last weekend?? He wasn't on the roster either, theres's another article. Whatever the reason for which Johnny was left off the team, I don't care, but I know one thing, there are at least 15 other ball players in our league that you could write this article on. It's a different ball game at Nationals and you have to be prepared for every type of situation. Newfoundland finished 1 run short, against the now 3 time defending champions. You should be proud of your team no matter whose on it, insted of your petty "choke" comments, and all this garbage. Newfoundland will get it's share of Gold medals, mark it down. But then I guess Ontario might have just choked. Anyways Johnny, Congrats on your Season!

  • ...
    September 18, 2011 - 08:10

    @Fan from way back Hehe... I was going to say he was cute... but you bet me to it...and then some... :-D BTW, my captcha is aptly fitting to this...

  • Fastpitch fan
    September 17, 2011 - 12:17

    I think if you read between the lines you can figure out that he has a bad attitude and his defensive game isn't at a National level. The outfield of the WSC team was comprised of players from the National team pool. I don't see how he was needed on the team. Also, just because he can hit over .500 in the local league, does not mean that he can hit the pitching of some of the best pitchers in the world. Bad reporting on behalf of The Telegram. Did you even ask the coaches or managers of West Side why he wasn't picked? A very one-sided story!

  • Fan from way back
    September 17, 2011 - 10:58

    I graduated from highschool with Jon and thought he was hot then, and Jonny you still got it!!

  • Townie influence
    September 17, 2011 - 10:06

    Looks like petty politics at work here. Keep up the good work John! They can't ignore you for much longer.......

    • Marty
      September 17, 2011 - 13:48

      Sorry to burst your bubble, but WSC did just fine with the players they had. They went through the tournament undefeated with hot bats and excellent fielding. If there was any injustice at the nationals it was that Kitchener could lose several games and make it into the championship game. It might be time to review the rules for national championships.