Trevor Kelley’s youthful baseball memories are Rhode Island memories, through and through.
Kelley was born in Barrington, played Little League along with countless backyard baseball and street hockey games with his neighborhood contemporaries, and made his way to McCoy Stadium too many times to count.
“Barrington is small enough where everyone knows each other,” said Kelley. “When I was four years old, I remember going to the next neighborhood over. I don’t know if I would let my kids do that today.
“We would sit out in the berm. That was our seat,” explained Kelley, a reference to the grassy knoll that’s known as a popular gathering spot for families to watch a Pawtucket Red Sox game.
These days, that same McCoy landmark serves as a reminder of just how far Kelley has come. Before beginning his warm-up tosses, the PawSox relief pitcher always makes it a point to gaze out to where he, his three siblings, and parents would park themselves as part of the Kelley’s PawSox pilgrimages.
“You have that moment when everything seems and feels surreal,” said Kelley. “All the childhood memories I have had at McCoy have helped make it extra special to make it here.”
Kelley left Barrington for the warmth – and the opportunity to play year-round baseball – of Willmington, N.C. after third grade.
“I remember I didn’t want to do it. Leaving behind all my friends was tough,” he said.
It wasn’t just baseball that helped Kelley make friends in his new surroundings. He also played soccer, football, and basketball.
“Sports definitely helped me get acclimated,” said Kelley. “My parents put me in everything.”
The days of serving as a bullpen mainstay date back to Kelley’s days at Ashley (N.C.) High School. He was a hard thrower who caught the attention of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill after being clocked at 94 miles per hour.
“For the longest time, I thought I had no shot to go to North Carolina. I always wanted to go there,” said Kelley. “Roughly two hours after they saw me pitch, they gave me a call.”
Initially, the relationship between Kelley and the Tar Heels was stuck in neutral. There were two weeks remaining in ACC play and Kelley had yet to appear in a game as a freshman. North Carolina was scheduled to play a weekend series in Miami. Kelley wasn’t part of the traveling party. Instead, he went to work out at his high school alma mater.
Sensing that it was getting close to the point of no return in terms of sticking around long-term with the Tar Heels – “I saw the writing on the wall” – Kelley opted to tinker with his delivery. On a whim, he decided to try a sidearm delivery. Standing in the same bullpen he would get loose in before appearing in games for Ashley High, Kelley dropped down for five pitches. He was clocked at 88 miles per hour.
In this case, subtracting velocity was a good thing. A week after undergoing this baseball-saving conversion, he made his college debut.
“I always wanted to play for Carolina … stick around and make a name for myself and help the team win,” said Kelley.
Kelley’s final three seasons in Carolina blue saw him take the mound a combined 104 times. His senior year in 2015, he ended up as one of the NCAA leaders in appearances (41) and posted the lowest ERA in his college tenure (2.55). Thanks to simplifying his leg kick, the ability to throw from a lower release point on a consistent basis enabled him to become a vital bullpen option for the Tar Heels.
The same year he wrapped up his time with the North Carolina program, Kelley also learned the Boston Red Sox had drafted him in the 35th round with the 1,071st overall pick.
“Obviously I was a diehard Red Sox fan,” he said.
Kelley remembers being in a state of shock and disbelief until being told by his wife Jamie that the phone was ringing and the area code read 6-1-7, which meant the call was coming from Boston.
“Initially, I thought it was a joke,” said Kelley, who admitted he had nearly resigned himself to the possibility of not getting drafted. “Then I realized my childhood dream was coming true.”
Joining the Red Sox farm system opened the door for Kelley to possibly someday pitch for the PawSox. On July 1, 2018, he made his Pawtucket debut. Two days later, he stepped on the mound at McCoy Stadium.
“I never got to go on the field so I always wondered what it was like down there and in the clubhouse,” said Kelley.
Kelley appeared in 13 games for the 2018 PawSox, posting a solid 1.54 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 23.1 innings. He didn’t allow an earned run in 10 of his appearances with Pawtucket.
What’s the best part of pitching in his home state? Having a place to stay, as Kelley and his wife stay with an aunt and uncle who live in Barrington. Kelley’s father also has family that hails from Warwick.
“I’m definitely fortunate to have a lot of support,” said Kelley.
For Kelley, having fans that double as family members in the McCoy stands is a reminder that in terms of baseball, everything has come full circle.
“There’s a reason why I say I’m from Barrington still,” said Kelley. “It holds a special place in my heart.”