How Merrill Kelly's baseball past in the Valley prepared him for the World Series

Kelly will start game two of the series against the Texas Rangers
Merrill Kelly
Posted at 2:42 PM, Oct 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-27 17:42:10-04

SCOTTSDALE, AZ — As if you needed another reason to cheer on the Diamondbacks during this improbable run to the World Series, the game two starter for the Snakes started his World Series pursuit at Desert Mountain High in Scottsdale.

If the sports world didn’t know his name before, they did after game six of the NLCS.

Merrill Kelly silenced Citizens Bank Park, striking out some of baseball’s best, shocking the sports world like the Snakes have done all postseason.

Red Mountain High School Baseball Coach Bryan Rice wasn’t surprised by Kelly at all because he saw him do it in high school.

”I think the main thing is I made sure he got on the bus, that was about it,” said Coach Rice with a smile.

During his coaching tenure at Scottsdale’s Desert Mountain High that spanned just under two decades, Coach Rice admits he thought Merrill Kelly’s brother Reid was better at the time.

That thinking may have changed during Merrill’s senior year in 2007 when Kelly started one of the longest high school baseball games ever played in Arizona- sixteen innings spanning over five hours.

Much like this year’s D-Backs, in a year when Desert Mountain had low expectations, Kelly thrived against the odds.

“He just put us on his back and said, we’re going to win, we weren’t expected to win and we went all the way to the state championship game,” said Rice.

From there, Kelly pitched at Yavapai College. He was drafted to the majors by Cleveland, but opted to continue his college career at ASU instead.

His path to the majors included a minor league stint in the Tampa Bay Rays organization.

Before he signed with the DBacks in 2018, Kelly’s slider, changeup, and sinker sent him to the KBO league where he played in the Korean Series, helping his team win it all.

Then this year he pitched in the World Baseball Classic.

So, it’s no wonder, Kelly is clutch in the biggest games of his career. Even downright mad when he got pulled at just 90 pitches in game six of the NLCS.

”In that situation NLCS game six, I want to be out there I want to help my team win. That’s my mentality,” said Kelly after game six.

That mentality that started partially in Valley.

Like any good coach, Rice aimed to make Kelly a good man before he became a really good pitcher.

“I’m not taking any credit for Merrill Kelly, I think the main thing we did for him was give him structure, give him understanding he needs to be a good person,” said Rice.

Kelly is scheduled to start game two of the World Series against the Texas Rangers in Arlington.