It was December 2014. The SK Wyverns (now SSG Landers), who were looking for a new foreign pitcher, paid attention to Merrill Kelly (35, Arizona Diamondbacks), a minor league player under the Tampa Bay Rays. Kelly was a prospect who recorded 9 wins, 4 losses, and an ERA of 2.76 in Triple A that year. Because he was a pitcher in his mid-20s who was about to be called up to the Major League Baseball (MLB), it was not easy for domestic clubs to recruit him. At the time, most KBO League clubs focused on players in their 30s with MLB experience. SK, which highly evaluated Kelly’s potential, pushed to sign a contract with him, even paying a transfer fee.
Kelly, who was considering moving to Korea, asked for advice from his minor league teammates at the time, Lee Hak-ju (currently of the Lotte Giants) and Doug Mathis (formerly of the Samsung Lions). He put on the SK uniform after much deliberation, but did not have much intention of playing for a long time. A club official involved in Kelly’s recruitment at the time said in a phone call with this newspaper on the 30th, “Kelly was probably planning to play for only one year and return to the United States. Tampa Bay, which did not want to lose the player, also asked for a high transfer fee.” Kelly, who won 11 games in the first year, renewed his contract, and his relationship with the KBO League continued for four years (total 48 wins) until 2018.토토사이트
It’s not that there wasn’t a crisis. In October 2016, then-SK general manager Min Kyung-sam (current SSG CEO) boarded a plane to the United States. While completing the process of appointing a foreign coach (Trey Hillman), his primary task was to renew Kelly’s contract. In particular, the key was how to change the mind of Kelly, who had a strong intention to return to the United States. Kelly, who played the role of ace for two seasons, was a major recruiting target for the United States and Japan. Kelly, who was worried about his future, signed a new contract, saying, “I am grateful to the club for coming to the United States and quickly signing a contract.” The director attached great significance to the ‘sincerity’ with which he personally negotiated in the United States. The player’s decision was decisive in Kelly’s decision to go to Korea. What made that decision even brighter was the club’s efforts toward the player.
Kelly crossed the Pacific Ocean in December 2018 by signing a four-year contract worth up to $14.5 million (18.8 billion won) with Arizona. He achieved his dream of making his big league debut in April of the following year, and has been on the mound in Arizona for five years now. In a written interview with this magazine last year, Kelly said, “(The four years in Korea) were not just helpful. They were a very big help. It was a four-year period that allowed me to grow not only as a pitcher, but also as a person,” he said. “Thanks to you, “I was able to maximize my potential. Through my experience in the KBO League, I learned about new environments and batters and learned how to apply them,” he said. Kelly, who had difficulty targeting left-handed batters in the 2016 season, honed his cut fastball (cutter). The cutter has now become a pitch that cannot be left out when describing Kelly.
Kelly started in Game 2 of the World Series against the Texas Rangers on the 29th (Korean time) and became the winning pitcher with a pitch that allowed 3 hits and 1 run in 7 innings. Since then, local media has shown great interest in Kelly’s life in the KBO League. Kelly said, “I have never once regretted that choice. If I could go back (to that moment), I would make the same decision. I think it was the best decision of my career,” and “I have memories of the four years I spent in Korea and the whole journey.” “I love you,” he said.