Thomas Holguin/HIGHLANDER

Around 200-plus excited baseball fans filled the University Lecture Hall on Monday, Feb. 4 for the ASPB sponsored event, Around the Mound with Joe Kelly. Kelly spoke about his experience playing in the World Series, what he enjoys doing in his free time and his time at UCR.

Kelly was a vital part in the Boston Red Sox defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series last year. After winning his first ring, Kelly decided to return to Southern California and play for the Dodgers, the team he just beat in the World Series, which sparked ASPB’s interest in bringing him to campus.

Around the Mound with Joe Kelly started with Interim Fraternity and Sorority Coordinator Ekpeju Ed Nunu conducting an interview with Kelly.

During said interview, Kelly described his experience pitching in the World Series, saying, “It was great. The World Series was one of the most peaceful times of my sporting life ever. It’s weird to say because it was the biggest moment, but it was the most relaxing for me.” The newly-crowned World Series champion also explained how it brought him back to the root of sports which made pitching in the World Series seem like a more relatable experience, saying, “It was almost like playing pick-up basketball at the rec. or intramural soccer, whatever you’re doing, it had that feeling of passion and fun.”

Kelly also detailed his thought process in his free agency decision. “I had a chance to see the Dodgers throughout my career but especially this year in the World Series,” Kelly explained. “It’s a very talented group of guys. They put an emphasis on winning which I can’t say about every team in Major League Baseball. That was big. It’s good to be back home, that was another factor.”

Being able to play near home was a huge factor for the newest member of the Dodgers. “It’s the first time in a long time where I can be comfortable,” Kelly said. “Me and my wife live in the Inland Empire, I’m not going to tell you my address but now I’m able to live at home instead of packing for nine months and then leaving.”

Kelly also shared what he enjoys doing in his free time and how he stays plugged in. Kelly used to play golf pretty often, but now enjoys playing video games and watching movies at home. “I do dabble with some Fortnite,” Kelly said. “I used to play a lot, but I will play some Fortnite here and there.”

“Netflix is good,” Kelly added. “I like watching a lot of movies on illegal apps,” which drew a lot of laughter from the crowd. “I didn’t say the app or what movies so we’re good,” Kelly joked.

Kelly also explained why he chose to attend UCR, saying it “was the only school that wanted me,” which drew the biggest laugh of the night from the crowd. After the laughter subsided, the former Highlander answered the question earnestly saying he felt the team was loaded, it was close to home and was one of three schools that would let him play baseball.

Interestingly enough Kelly didn’t start out his career as a pitcher, which is surprising because he has spent his six-year career in the majors in that position. He came into UCR as an outfielder but after the team’s closing pitcher got injured they were in need of a reliever. According to Kelly, pitching coach Andrew Checketts saw him throwing baseballs at his teammates from the outfield and was intrigued by the speed of his throws. Checketts asked Kelly if he could pitch to which Kelly responded “no,” but the pitching coach made him throw some pitches off the mound anyway. After bringing out a radar gun to get a read on how fast Kelly’s pitches were going, Checketts made the future major leaguer a pitcher. “Hated him for a solid couple months,” Kelly said. “But loved him after that.

Kelly also explained why he decided to come back to UCR and be a part of an event like this, saying, “I love this school. I have so many great memories here. I met my wife here. Baseball has given me so much that I love the Head Coach here, Troy Percival.”

The event ended with Kelly answering questions from students that were largely about specific baseball incidents, such as him getting into a fight with a Yankees player and finding out he got traded via social media.

Kelly will start his seventh season of his career this upcoming season with the Los Angeles Dodgers.