It was December 2014. Looking for a new foreign pitcher, the SK Wyverns (now the SSG Landers) set their sights on Merrill Kelly (35-Arizona Diamondbacks), a minor leaguer with the Tampa Bay Rays. Kelly was a promising prospect who went 9-4 with a 2.76 ERA in Triple-A that year. As a pitcher in his mid-20s who was on the cusp of a Major League Baseball (MLB) call-up, he was a tough sell for Korean clubs. At the time, KBO teams were mostly interested in players in their 30s with MLB experience. SK was so excited about Kelly’s potential that they pushed to sign him, even paying a transfer fee.
As he considered the move to Korea, Kelly sought advice from former minor league teammates Hak-Joo Lee (now with the Lotte Giants) and Doug Mathis (formerly with the Samsung Lions). After much deliberation, he suited up in an SK uniform, but didn’t expect to play long. A club official who was involved in the signing of Kelly told us on the 30th, “I think he was thinking of playing for only one year and then going back to the US. Tampa Bay, who didn’t want to lose him, also asked for a high transfer fee.” After winning 11 games in his first year, Kelly was re-signed, and his association with the KBO lasted four years (48 career wins) until 2018.
It wasn’t without crisis. In October 2016, then-SK president Min Kyung-sam (now president of SSG) boarded a plane to the United States. While finalizing the process of hiring a foreign manager (Trey Hillman), his first order of business was to re-sign Kelly, especially if he could change his mind about returning to the United States. After two seasons as an ace, Kelly was a major recruiting target for the United States and Japan. “I am grateful to the club for coming to the United States and quickly signing a contract,” he said. He placed great importance on the ‘sincerity’ of the team’s negotiations in the United States. The player’s decision to come to Korea was crucial, but what made it even more so was the club’s commitment to the player.토스카지노 도메인
Kelly crossed the Pacific Ocean in December 2018, signing a four-year, $14.5 million (18.8 billion won) contract with Arizona. He made his “big league debut” the following April and has been on the Arizona mound for five years now. In a written interview last year, Kelly said, “(The four years in Korea) didn’t just help me. It helped me a lot. “It allowed me to maximize my potential as a pitcher and as a person,” Kelly said last year. Through my KBO experience, I learned about new environments and hitters and how to apply it.” After struggling with left-handed hitters in 2016, Kelly honed his cut fastball (cutter). The cutter is now a staple of Kelly’s arsenal.
Kelly started Game 2 of the World Series against the Texas Rangers on Sept. 29 and pitched seven innings of three-hit, one-run ball to win the game. Since then, the local media has shown a lot of interest in Kelly’s life in the KBO. “I’ve never regretted my decision. If I had to go back (to that moment), I would make the same decision. I think it was the best decision I’ve ever made in my career,” he said, adding, “I love the four years I spent in Korea and the whole journey.”