Kelly saved by higher calling
Former outfielder overcame external, internal obstacles
BALTIMORE -- The young boy from Philadelphia, the one who would go to Connie Mack Stadium with his baseball-consumed father to watch the Phillies play the Brooklyn Dodgers, was letting his daddy down with his uninhibited lifestyle.Pat Kelly was a big-city kid who reached the Major Leagues by playing in some of baseball's most desolate and unprogressive locales in the 1960s, battling racism and segregation to accomplish his lifelong goal of playing professionally. After becoming a full-time Major League player in 1969, Kelly enjoyed the fruits of his labor as did many of his peers during the wild 1970s. That meant partying a little too hard, which only made Kelly typical in an unrestrained era. Kelly was just another ballplayer who placed too high a priority on personal gratification. "I was just living a wretched life," he said. "I wasn't proud of the lifestyle I was living -- drugs, alcohol, partying. I am not saying it was for everybody but it was for me." Kelly, the former Oriole outfielder, said his revelation did not resemble some clichéd scene from a TV movie. He said he was introduced to God in 1975 while playing with the Chicago White Sox. Kelly felt a higher calling, and his religion would serve as his foremost inspiration for the remainder of his baseball career. "Win or loss, regardless of what happened in the game, I always felt so much joy," he said. "I remember once Jim Palmer went to (Orioles manager) Earl Weaver to tell me to shag fly balls instead of talking with the fans. But I enjoyed shaking hands and talking with the fans so much. I felt so free." Kelly is now an evangelist who is the coordinator of Life Line Ministries, an organization based in the Baltimore area that preaches faith and helps inner city children. Kelly has traveled to places such as India, Kenya and Nigeria to spread his word. While many players embrace coaching or pursue business interests when their days are over, Kelly knew he wanted to pursue his ministry and began working for his father-in-law's Christian outreach program after he was released by the Cleveland Indians prior to the 1982 season. It was a new life for Kelly, one he said is much more fulfilling than hitting a grand slam.
Gary Washburn is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.