Happy 34th birthday to Donald Thomas Kelly, also known as DK32, also known as my favorite player in the world. DK recently celebrated an aggressively average season, hitting .222, but he also hit the weights, blasting 6 home runs and 23 RBI’s. He also only struck out 28 times in 112 games, which was a huge improvement from his 2012 campaign, when he struck out 22 times in only 75 games.
This past year, DK was also honored with the 10th Man Award from the Detroit Baseball Society. Playing primarily as a sub for numerous players and positions, he honestly didn’t really have much competition from the Tigers bench. Other subs that came to mind are Brayan Pena (one of the funniest guys to follow on Twitter, even if he’s not on the Tigers anymore, @cuban2727), Ramon Santiago, Hernan Perez, and Matt Tuiasosopo. Pena was an awesome catching replacement, hitting a career high .297 in 71 games (one off of his career high). He also had a highlight reel of a game against the Yankees in the middle of the summer in which he had a home run and two singles. While Pena brought an offensive jolt compared to the free swinging, glorious facial hair growing Alex Avila, his defense was lacking. In terms of fielding percentage he was fine, but throwing out runners was not as good as the starter. For that reason, I think Pena was eliminated from competition for 10th man. Santiago and Perez, virtually spitting images of each other in all aspects, scuffled at the plate (Santiago had a higher average than DK, but shhh), hitting .224 and .197, respectively. They both are excellent fielders, but not as versatile as DK (in 2011, he played everything except second and short). Tuiasosopo, of whom I am a big fan, was hitting the cover off the ball at the beginning of the season, or at least until opposing pitching staffs realized offspeed pitching is his kryptonite. As of July 28th, he was hitting .301. Two months later, he was hitting .244. In an interview with mLive writer James Schmehl, Tui recognized that pitchers were facing him differently and that he needed to fix his approach. He admitted he was swinging at a lot of bad pitches in the dirt and then it threw off his mojo. Understandable, but not acceptable. Like I said, I’m a huge fan of Tui, and if he had made the proper adjustments, I think he would have been the right choice.
DK is arguably the most defensively versatile player in the game today. He is the only active player to have played all nine positions. In 2011, he was brought on to pitch against the Mets in a 16-9 fiasco of a loss, where he got Scott Hairston to fly out to center on a 71 mph breaking ball. Yes, you read that right. His fastball hit 86. Not bad.
I love DK because he’s a hustler. He gives 100% every day, regardless of what the skipper needed. He’s a good example of hard work and dedication for young players. He went to an NAIA school and got drafted by his hometown Pirates, and recently signed his first million dollar contract with the Tigers. He’s not a diva, he’s not a prima donna, he just does his work. He might not always hit .350 with 45 home runs, but he comes through when he needs to. Prime example: August 6 against the Indians (right in the middle of the Tigers 10 game win streak against the Indians or something like that). The Tigers won 5-1 over Justin Masterson, thanks to DK. He went 3-4 with 3 RBI’s and run scored. That was a big game with big implications for the AL Central. He stepped up when he needed to.
So happy birthday, Deek. Not the most glamorous player, but certainly the hardest working. I mean, if anyone can pick up Prince Fielder, how can you not be the hardest working?
As always, thanks for reading.