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Updated: January 22, 2019
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Grand Slam/Marco Stoovelaar
Compiled and Copyright © 1997-2019 by Marco Stoovelaar

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...Eligio Kelly...
(1956 - 2019)
(© Photo: Marco Stoovelaar)
Former Netherlands Team-pitcher Eligio Kelly passed away

WILLEMSTAD (Curaçao/Neth.) - Former pitcher Eligio Kelly, who pitched for the Netherlands National Team in the seventies, passed away on Saturday (January 19), one month after his 62nd birthday. Eligio Kelly is the father of Kevin Kelly, pitcher of Curaçao Neptunus and the Netherlands Team.

The memorial and funeral ceremony for Eligio Kelly will take place on Friday, January 25 at Morada Santa Bottelier in Willemstad, Curaçao.

Leon Eligio Kelly was born on December 14, 1956 in Willemstad and went on to play baseball from an early age. Later, he got the nickname Lichito. Kelly played for many years for Groot Kwartier Stars, one of the leading baseball-teams on Curaçao. Initially, he was a second baseman, but that was transformed to pitcher. ,,They told me that I was throwing the ball from second base with a curve. What kind of curve, I asked them, I just throw the ball. But they kept asking me if I want to pitch. That's how I became a pitcher'', Kelly told Marco Stoovelaar in an interview in 2014 for Leesvoer, the daily magazine of the Haarlem Baseball Week.

On Curaçao, Kelly was a teammate of Rudsel Poulina, who also played in the Dutch big league, and Stanley Engelhardt, the father of Bryan and Rachid. Both were catchers, but Engelhardt caught most of Kelly's games. Kelly made his debut in the main-squad of Groot Kwartier at age 15 in the highest league on Curaçao (Doble A).

As a pitcher, Kelly became known for his fastball, which was clocked frequently at 96 mph. Kelly developed in a very talented pitcher and attracted the attention of Major League-scouts. He was one of the first players from Curaçao to sign a professional contract and was associated with the Newark Co-Pilots, the Single-A team of the Milwaukee Brewers in 1976 and 1977.

After being released, Kelly decided to go to the Netherlands in 1978. He traveled to the city of Waalwijk in the province of Noord-Brabant, where his mother lived. Shortly thereafter, he was added to the main-squad of Quick Amersfoort, which then played in the highest Dutch league. In the 2014 interview, Kelly said: ,,I don't know how they knew I was here, but after four days, I was contacted by Kiki Poulina, who then was the Manager of Quick. The team was in danger of relegating and I was asked to throw some games for them.'' Kelly pitched for Quick and also got the attention from Hamilton Richardson, who knew him and then was one of the coaches of the Netherlands National Team. Richardson suggested his name to then-Manager Ernie Myers and Kelly was added to the roster of the Orange Team for the tenth Haarlem Baseball Week, which was scheduled for August 1978.

It was in Haarlem, that Kelly made his Orange-debut. The other players on the 20-man roster for the 1978 Haarlem Baseball Week were pitchers Nol Beenders, Bertil Haage, Jan Hijzelendoorn, Paul Mulder, Martin Ronnenbergh, Ed Tromp and Bart Volkerijk, catchers Hans Augustinus, Tico Fleming and Paul Smit, infielders Harm Horeman, Louis Jacobs, Jos Kervers, Boudewijn Maat, Arnold Smith, Charles Urbanus and Don Wedman and outfielders Wim Hageman, Hennie Jenken and Ben Richardson. Looking back to that team, Kelly said: ,,That was a great team. Urbanus was a helluva player. Leen Volkerijk was our Pitching Coach and his son Bart was one of the pitchers. A very good pitcher, just as Paul Mulder. The atmosphere was great in both the team as well as the tournament''. After completion of the Haarlem Baseball Week, the Netherlands Team traveled to Italy to participate in the World Championship, where Kelly also was one of the Orange-pitchers.

In 1979, Kelly played for Rotterdam-based Sparta in the Dutch big league. While playing for Quick Amersfoort, Kelly pitched in three games (all starts) and was 3-0. With Sparta, the righthanded pitcher was less succesful. He appeared in eight games (three starts) and was 0-4. In his two Dutch big league-seasons, Kelly struckout 45 batters in 66 innings. In 1980, Kelly returned to Curaçao, where he continued playing baseball, but also played softball for some time.

In 2014, he returned to Haarlem for the first time since 1978 to see his son Kevin Kelly making his debut in the Netherlands Team. No one knew that Kelly was coming to the Netherlands and in Haarlem, he surprised his son. Looking from the stands, Kelly then stated: ,,I enjoyed seeing my son Kevin playing. I'm very proud! I always watch my children, I support my children''.

Earlier, Kelly Sr. also had traveled to Oklahoma in the USA to see Kevin play in the NJCAA Division II World Series with Western Oklahoma State College Pioneers in 2010 and 2011. Amongst Kevin's teammates in 2011 were Randolph Oduber and current Major Leaguer Andrelton Simmons. Kevin and his team won the National Championship-title in 2011. After Eligio Kelly visited Haarlem in 2014, he returned to the Netherlands frequently in the following years to watch his son pitching for the Netherlands during the Haarlem Baseball Week and the World Port Tournament in Rotterdam.

The webmaster of Grand Slam * Stats & News offers his condolences to Eligio's wife Cheriette, their sons Kevin, Dwight and Paul and other family and wishes them a lot of strength with this loss.

(January 22)

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