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Kelly Praises Resilience of 2021 Bats Squad

October 15, 2021 - Triple-A East League (AAA East) - Louisville Bats News Release

LOUISVILLE, KY -- Following the cancellation of the 2020 MiLB season, fans weren't the only ones who were happy to be back at the ballpark for Bats baseball.

Team skipper Pat Kelly, who has spent more than 30 years in the routine of coaching baseball each season, was glad to get back on track.

"That is probably what we appreciate the most - the fact that we got to play the whole season," Kelly said. "There were a few times early in the season where we didn't know if we would even get the chance to finish, and the fact that we played all the way into October was incredible."

Incredible and anything but normal.

"Obviously, it was a very interesting season with the alternate site games for the first month, the change of the schedule, the eliminating of the All-Star Game, and the additional two weeks added to the end of the season," the Bats' skipper said in reference to a May - October slate of games instead of April - September. "I thought it was a great testament to our players that they were able to grind it out and survive. We got off to a slow start but I thought we played much better in the second half."

The Bats won just 27 of their first 72 games through July 27 before finding their groove down the stretch run. The team went .500 over its final 56 games and 18-16 in the final 34 contests to close out the year.

However, the second-half success wasn't the only positive note to come out of the 2021 Bats' season. Kelly and his coaching staff helped develop a farm team that featured 35 players who played for both the Cincinnati Reds and Bats in 2021.

"We sent a lot of players to Cincinnati to help them," Kelly said. "We are all competitors who want to win, and I would have liked to have had a lot more wins...But when you look at it, we sent (that many) guys to the big leagues, eight of them for the first time."

The eight players to debut were RHP Ryan Hendrix, RHP Vladimir Gutierrez, RHP Tony Santillan, INF Alejo Lopez, OF TJ Friedl, RHP Dauri Moreta, LHP Reiver Sanmartin and RHP Riley O'Brien.

When asked about seeing a player get the call to go to "The Show" for the first time, Kelly simply replied, "It's the best part of my job."

"You know, you've worked with these guys, sometimes at the lower levels, and then you get to see them succeed at this level and get a chance to get called up. That's probably the greatest reward you can get as a minor league manager."

Another point of pride for Kelly and his staff in 2021 was having a relatively injury-free clubhouse. No easy feat when the club cycled through a franchise-record 79 different players over the 128-game season.

"I think the most challenging thing this season was players' health." Kelly asserted. "The majority of these guys didn't play at all in 2020. I think our training staff did a great job [rehabbing and treating players] and the coaches did a good job in maintaining their work loads. Like with the pitchers, we were going to run them out there for 100+ innings, hitters were going to get 300-400 at-bats, so I think the biggest thing was to try to keep them healthy... We had very few guys on the IL all season."

As a true testament to excelling with the season's workload, left-hander Phillip Diehl led all of Minor League Baseball with 58 appearances out of the bullpen for the Bats. He's the first Louisville pitcher to appear in that many games since 2007 and first southpaw since 2004.

Alfredo Rodriguez also was a mainstay in the lineup, leading team position players with 117 games played. He paced all Triple-A East batters with 38 hits with runners in scoring position and 63 hits at home at Louisville Slugger Field, en route to collecting 100+ base knocks for the third time in the last four seasons.

With stalwarts in the bullpen and atop the lineup, the Bats helped Kelly reach an impressive milestone with his 1,800th career victory as an MiLB skipper on Aug. 13 vs. Nashville. Kelly is now one of just four active managers in the Minors with 1,800 career wins and he capped 2021 with 1,820 total victories.

When asked about his future with Louisville, Kelly was happy to weigh in:

"You never know about this game, but I would definitely like to come back," said Kelly.

"Yeah, I'd like to come back to Louisville and win some more games."

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The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.

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