Giants’ Roberto Kelly manages Team Panama with fast track to World Baseball Classic in March 2013

Giants coach Roberto Kelly was very instrumental to
San Francisco’s 2010 and 2012 World Championships.

The San Francisco Giants have never been big in the larceny department. The 1986 team holds the franchise record with 148 stolen bases. After guiding Giants’ baserunners to a 67.5% success rate in swiping bags during his first four seasons, first base coach and baserunning instructor Roberto Kelly turned up the heat to 75% in 2012. Now as manager of host Panama in the World Baseball Classic Qualifier, Kelly hopes to parlay his World Championship magic to lead Panama’s best to a ticket to the WBC competition beginning March 7, 2013.

Roberto Kelly tries to calm down the emotionally-charged Angel Pagan, who led the 2012 Giants in triples and steals.

The 2012 Giants ranked tenth overall in MLB with 118 stolen bases, a vast improvement from last year’s 24th ranking and 85 steals. The team identified baserunning as an area that needed work this past season after their NL-low 2011 run total of 570. Led by outfielders Angel Pagan, Gregor Blanco, Hunter Pence and shortstop Brandon Crawford, instincts and speed made a difference when taking an extra base or advancing from first to third. Reflecting on winning the 2012 World Series and the sudden increase in offense, coach Kelly said: “First of all, we had the guys to do it with. Second, we had to score more runs.” Despite having a more mobile lineup than ever, third baseman Pablo Sandoval and catcher Buster Posey possessed less than optimal speed on base. “Obviously we’re not going to ask those guys to steal 20 bases,” Kelly said. “But they can get bigger leads and let the pitcher know they’re there. Getting a bigger lead’s going to allow you to have a better chance of going from first to third.”

Manager Bruce Bochy is delighted to have such a fine future MLB managerial candidate as Roberto Kelly.

Gregor Blanco saves Matt Cain’s perfect game with his leaping catch on June 13, 2012 and credits his coach Roberto Kelly for his defensive excellence.

San Francisco skipper Bruce Bochy recalled why the Giants recruited the two-time MLB All-Star and successful minor league manager Roberto Kelly in 2008. “The teams he managed had a lot of speed and used it well,” Bochy said. “He has a great way about him, he’s very professional, and he had a successful career in the big leagues. He’ll help the runners to read pitchers, work on their jumps, their secondary leads — all the things that help you take an extra base.” Kelly also has worked with Giants outfielders and helped them post a .989 fielding percentage–third-best in MLB since 2008. Gregor Blanco credits his aggressive outfield approach in making web gem catches throughout the season and his precise bunt stop mere inches fair on the infield dirt in the World Series to coach Kelly. Blanco said, “I was joking with Roberto Kelly when I got to first base. We practiced that. That was a perfect bunt.” When the Hall of Fame asked for the glove that saved Matt Cain’s perfect game, he obliged. Blanco said, “I’m happy to be able to accomplish that,

26-year-old MLB journeyman Luis Durango, who recently signed with the Kansas City Royals, will be Panama’s spark plug against Brazil, Colombia, and Nicaragua in the World Baseball Classic Qualifier.

and I’ll be able to see my glove in Cooperstown. It’s a great deal for me. That comes from hard work and working with the guys, with Angel Pagan, with Roberto Kelly. I have to give credit to them.” Coach Kelly also likes Pagan. “He’s a great talent and has been great for us on both sides of the field,” Kelly said. “He’s been fine for us and in control. He’s very aggressive.” Switch-hitting Luis Durango is Panama manager Roberto Kelly’s answer to Pagan. The speedy outfielder recently signed with the Kansas City Royals after hitting .289 with a .352 OBP and 46 steals for Triple-A Gwinnett Braves in 2012.

Clocked running from home plate to first base on a bunt in 3.4 seconds, Luis Durango replaced injured Michael Bourn on the 2011 Houston Astros roster.

Leadoff hitter Luis Durango was one
of the few bright spots in Panama’s two losses during the 2009 World Baseball Classic Pool D competition in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In game one against host Puerto Rico, Durango singled, walked twice and stole one base. In Panama’s follow-up contest
in which they were eliminated by the Dominican Republic, he went 2-for-3. Hitting .600 in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, Durango was second in the international games in batting average and on-base percentage. Panama’s 48-year-old manager will use Durango’s ability to get on base, steal a bag or two and ultimately score to win the 2012 WBC Qualifier games beginning November 15th at Panama City, Panama’s Rod Carew Stadium.

Roberto Kelly is very gracious with his time and sponsors many youth baseball clinics in Panama.

A positive role model for Panama’s next generation of MLB stars, Roberto Kelly is committed to the growth of baseball in his native homeland and is looking for ways to teach the youth about the game and life’s lessons. After enjoying a solid 14-year Major League playing career and compiling a lifetime .290 batting average with 241 doubles, 124 home runs, 585 RBI and 235 stolen bases over 1,337 games, Kelly is now a two-time World Champion MLB coach and manager of Panama’s national team. An inspiration for many on how hard work and dedication can bring success, Panama looks to Kelly

Roberto Kelly and Panama outfielder Rubén Rivera


to lead the country to greatness by advancing to the 2013 World Baseball Classic. He will not be alone in this special assignment as former MLB outfielder Rubén Rivera (1995-2003) will be there by his side every step of the way. Although his cousin–New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera–has never participated in the World Baseball Classic, Rubén will be making his third WBC appearance for Panama. Still playing ball and in excellent shape at age 39, Rubén is very much the heart and soul of this Panama squad.

Giants first base coach Roberto Kelly and 2012 World Series MVP Pablo “Panda” Sandoval

With over 3.5 million Panamanians cheering on their national baseball heroes in the World Baseball Classic Qualifier, there’s a good chance that the sense of excitement in Panama City will equal that of the recent enthusiasm at the 2012 World Series Champion Giants celebratory parade in the streets of downtown San Francisco. The common link to key both of these teams is Giant coach and Panama manager Roberto Kelly. With his expertise and his roster of very talented players, Panama is destined to party hard after a win of the
WBC Qualifier Final on November 19th.

1 Comment

Great article on Roberto Kelly. He is one of the true unsung heroes of the Giants coaching staff. He looks like he is in better shape than most of the players! Go Giants – Great article Roberto. Well written – Sluggo!

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