The Minor League Life of Pat Kelly

Current LHS security guard and lunch monitor Mr. Pat Kelly has not always been patrolling the hallways keeping kids in line.  Before Libertyville, Mr. Kelly had the opportunity to play professional baseball.


Kelly played seven seasons in Minor League Baseball, playing for the Atlanta Braves and Toronto Blue Jays organizations.  Kelly attended high school locally at Waukegan East, graduating in 1985, before receiving a scholarship to play baseball at Iowa State University.  He then transferred to Triton College for his sophomore season, having his best season, which gave him the possibility of being drafted.  Although he was not selected in the draft, he received another scholarship to finish his collegiate career at Missouri State University.


After going undrafted out of Missouri State, Kelly signed with the Atlanta Braves to play professional baseball.  Primarily a second baseman throughout college, Kelly made the transition to third base his first year in the minors because the Braves had selected a young second baseman the year prior.


Mr. Kelly started his professional career in short season A ball but worked his way up through the minor leagues, eventually spending two years in AAA, the highest level of minor league baseball.  Hard work and determination were the keys to his success in baseball: “Being an undrafted free agent, I had to take advantage of every opportunity given to me, because there was no money invested in me,” said Kelly.


The minor leagues have a reputation of being a hard life, with teams playing more than 140 games in about as many days.  Players generally get to the ballpark more than seven hours before game time to prepare.  These long days in the late summer months, commonly known as the dog days, test one’s love of the game.  But Kelly viewed it in a different way.


“It was like being in a bubble.  You don’t think about a lot of things besides baseball… When you are playing baseball every day and fans are coming out to watch you, you kind of lose touch with the real world,” said Kelly.  “I enjoyed it though because I felt like I was always getting better the more I practiced and played.”


Coach Dan Gooris, who played two seasons in the minors said, “The season definitely wears on you, but as long as you take care of yourself and your body then it’s really not that bad.”


Through the years, Kelly had the opportunity to play alongside some incredible players, including Hall of Famer-to-be Chipper Jones, Ryan Klesko, and Vinny Castilla.  Kelly also had the opportunity to play against future MLB All-Stars: Shawn Greene, Carlos Delgado and Derek Jeter.


During Kelly’s career, he won two minor league championships, one with AA Greenville Braves in 1992, a team he considered the best he had ever played for, and another two years later with AAA Richmond Braves.


“You knew every time you took the field you were going to win,” said Kelly about both teams.


The MLB strike during the 1994-1995 led to many teams releasing minor leaguers who did not qualify for guaranteed contracts.  Kelly was one of the many players who were released due to the strike.  After being released by the Braves, Kelly was picked up by the Toronto Blue Jays ,where he finished his professional career.


After spending almost seven full seasons in the Minor Leagues and becoming a free agent (after six full seasons in the minor leagues, a player becomes a free agent), 29-year-old Kelly decided to hang up the cleats: “I knew in my heart that I wanted to start a family at some point…So I made the decision that I was done, I knew I had given it my best; it was just time to move on,” said Kelly.


“Getting the opportunity to play professional baseball opened my eyes, overall I was glad I did it and it is something I will remember for the rest of my life,” said Gooris.


Looking back, there is nothing he would want to change about his baseball career.


“My college coach at Triton told me to go with my heart and once I made my decision to not look back, and that’s kind of the way I have lived the rest of my life.  So I don’t think I would have done anything differently,” said Kelly.


Although he was just short of reaching the Majors, Kelly was content with his professional career.


After baseball, Kelly was offered a job from a childhood friend working at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, trading in the S&P 500 futures pit.  He worked at the Mercantile Exchange for 10 years before moving to the Chicago Board of Trade for six more years.


After 16 years working in Chicago, Mr. Kelly decided it was time for a change.  When the opportunity presented itself to take a job at LHS two years ago, Kelly was eager to take advantage.

His passion for working with kids drew him to Libertyville so he could work closely with a wider range of students.  Kelly also enjoys sharing his knowledge of sports with the athletes at the school, working with them to develop a strong character and work ethic.