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Monday, July 9, 2012

Baby Birds: An interview with Cardinals second round draft pick Carson Kelly

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Johnson City Cardinals
Johnson City Cardinals third baseman Carson Kelly answers some questions from John Nagel of @stlbabybirds. -(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Not many 17 year-old graduating seniors face a decision like the one Carson Kelly had in front of him. Kelly was an all-state baseball player living in Portland, Oregon who was also named the top high school senior for baseball by several organizations.

Kelly graduated from Westview High School on June 11, 2012. Six days before graduation, Kelly was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2nd round (86th overall) of the MLB draft. ESPN analyst Keith Law had Kelly rated the 27th best prospect in the draft.

Kelly's decision was a tough one. Waiting for him at the University of Oregon was a major scholarship. Then again,  he had his childhood dream of playing professional baseball waiting for him. St. Louis Cardinals fans are glad he chose to chase his dream. Kelly signed his professional contract on June 14, 2012. 

Kelly was assigned to the Johnson City Cardinals, which is a team mainly for high school players just drafted or international players coming through the ranks. As of July 8th, Kelly is the third youngest player in the Appalachian League and the youngest Cardinal farmhand . He will turn 18 on July 14th and seems to be starting to get the hang of professional ball.

Kelly is currently hitting .215 with two home runs and four runs batted in. As of July 9th, Kelly had an eight game hitting streak where he was hitting .353 with the two homers and three RBI's.

Kelly was kind enough to answer a few questions on the draft experience and how things are going in Johnson City.

Q: Did you have a favorite team growing up in Oregon? How about a favorite player? Why?
"Ironically my favorite team growing up was the Chicago Cubs. I was born in Chicago so growing up they were the team I followed. But I also have family in St. Louis so there is a little rivalry between family members."
Q: Some had you projected as a first round pick. Were you surprised when you slipped to the second?
"I was a little upset with what happened about the first day but I know that all things happen for a reason. An opportunity opened up that I could not deny and was happy with it. It is a true honor to be in the position I am now."
Q: How hard was it to choose between pro ball and the University of Oregon?
"Extremely difficult, I was very close with the coaching staff and players at Oregon which made the decision very tough for me. In the end, I had to go with the dream every little kid has of playing professional baseball. But no matter what I am still a Duck."
Q: What was going through your mind when you were taking batting practice at Busch in front of Matheny, McGwire, and others? They had good things to say about you by the way.
"Just to relax and do what I have been doing my whole life. Its still the same game you've played forever, why add extra pressure on yourself? It was a tremendous honor to be with those guys on the field and it was great to get some pointers on how to go about yourself on and off the field. I am very thankful to have had that opportunity."
Q: What is the hardest adjustment to pro ball versus high school or competitive summer ball?
"The speed of the game. Guys are stronger, faster and mentally disciplined. This has been a big adjustment for me and I am starting to get the hang of it."
Q: How does Johnson City, Tennesse differ from Portland?
"The weather would be the biggest difference. Both towns have passion for sports. Johnson City really shows its passion for the St. Louis Cardinals organization.  Portland and Johnson City have a great sporting atmosphere with supportive fans. It is an adjustment from what I am used to but I have enjoyed every moment being here in Johnson City."
Q: You were very successful at third base and pitcher. What would you have picked if it was your choice?
"I would say third base because I like to play everyday. Also if third base does not work out then I can come back and pitch but doing the opposite is very difficult. I feel natural in the field and that's where I wanted to play."
Cardinal fans will love watching this kid play for a long time.

For more on the Baby Birds and the Cardinals minor leagues, you can follow John Nagel on Twitter, @StlBabyBirds.  Or if you have a question you can send him an e-mail at john.nagel@stlsportsminute.com

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