By Lucas Robbins, Digital Communications Intern
It has been eight years since a Sun Devil Baseball jersey was honored, and it’s only fitting that one will be recognized during the final season at Packard Stadium.
Mike Kelly, center fielder from 1989-1991, will have his No. 24 honored March 8 against Tennessee as part of Packard Stadium’s Tip Your Cap to the 1990s weekend. Kelly will be the 17th player, and the second from the ‘90s, to join the elite fraternity on Packard Stadium’s outfield wall. Other Sun Devil greats on the Wall of Fame include fellow outfielders Oddibe McDowell and Reggie Jackson, Floyd Bannister and Bob Horner.
Kelly boasts one of the most legendary careers in Sun Devil Baseball’s rich history. He won the 1991 Golden Spikes Award, baseball’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy, and was the 1990 consensus National Player of the Year and a three-time All-American.
“Of the many talented players who have worn baseball uniforms at Arizona State down through the years, few had a skill-set as complete as Mike Kelly,” The Voice of the Sun Devils Tim Healey says. “He clearly was one of the best all-around players in Sun Devil history, representing the program with class and dignity on and off the field.”
The ASU Hall of Famer was a career .350 hitter with 197 runs scored, 194 RBI, 46 doubles and 46 home runs, the second most in ASU history. He was selected second overall in the 1991 Draft by the Atlanta Braves and went on to play parts of six seasons on four different teams in the Major Leagues.
In addition to a multitude of accolades, Kelly also had several signature moments during his playing days at ASU.
Sun Devil football wide receiver John Jefferson (1974-77) was not the only player to make “The Catch” against the University of Arizona. On May 20, 1990, Kelly caught a potential game-winning home run ball against the Wildcats to preserve a 4-2 lead in the sixth inning and an eventual 6-4 victory.
"ASU fans remember most the catch where he reached over the wall at Sancet Field (in Tucson) with two runners on base to save a victory for the Sun Devils,” says Pat Brock, wife of the late Jim Brock, Sun Devil Baseball’s winningest head coach. “Coach Jim Brock greatly respected Mike's talent, work ethic and great contribution to the program.”
Another fabled Kelly occurrence happened during a batting practice in early March 1990, when Kelly crushed a ball over the left-field fence. The ball was later found near Tempe Town Lake with an “A” from the Easton logo tattooed on the leather.
“College baseball rarely has a complete player, one who is the very best in every area,” Coach Brock said in the 1991 ASU Baseball Yearbook. “Mike Kelly is the closest I’ve seen to that in a long time.”
The No. 24 was also honored in 1993 for Barry Bonds, but Kelly’s acknowledgment won’t be the first time the same number was honored for two different players. Alan Bannister’s (1970-72) No. 7 was honored in 1999, while Hubie Brooks’ (1977-78) No. 7 was honored the following year.
Kelly’s near-mythical talents, whether in the box score or the minds of Sun Devils everywhere, will now be forever immortalized among the hallowed grounds of Packard Stadium’s 40th and final season, and the program’s bright future at Phoenix Muni.