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.