Kelley all set for hyped up PGAAC

Photo: Jared Kelley (Perfect Game)

Blake Dowson
Published: Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Jared Kelley was under center as the Refugio High School football team won a Texas State Football Championship during his sophomore year.

Texas high school quarterbacks are celebrities. Texas high school quarterbacks who win state titles for their hometowns turn into legends. Kelley did all that as a sophomore, with what would have been a hell of a career ahead of him on the gridiron.

Then Kelley decided he needed to make a decision on what was best for his future. See, he’s ranked as the second-best righthanded pitcher in the 2020 class, and the No. 7 overall recruit. Good problem to have, choosing between two sports that you excel in (to put it lightly) to put all your effort toward.

Kelley chose baseball, with no regrets so far. It’s been accolade after accolade for the 6-foot-2, 200-pound righty.

“In Refugio, and all of Texas, everyone wants to be on the field and play football on Friday nights,” Kelley said. “It was tough. We have a small school with not many kids to choose from. It’s taught me a lot. Made me tougher, taught me how to get through adversity. Quitting football was tough, but I felt like that was what’s best for my future.”

Kelley, and his 98 mph fastball, will be one of the main attractions of the Perfect Game All-American Classic in San Diego on August 11.

As he’s travelled around the United States this summer and last, Kelley said he’s gotten to know quite a few of the players he’ll team up with and against at Petco Park. That’s one of the best parts about the Classic, according to him.

Kelley also said he’s well aware of the history of the All-American Classic and the caliber of players that have come and gone through it.

“I’ve known the history of Perfect Game, and being able to play with players like…Austin Hendrick, Blaze Jordan, Mick Abel and them, and right after guys that just got drafted like Bobby Witt Jr, Riley Greene. That’s awesome. I know Perfect Game has a bright past and a lot of people get some great recognition from this event.”

If quitting one sport to focus on another sounds like Kelley puts in less work throughout the year, that’s just not it.

Although he doesn’t put the pads on during the fall anymore, he’s travelling to workouts every week to get stronger and work on his craft.

“Every week I go to Corpus Christi, three times a week, an hour over there and an hour back, to work out for three or four hours,” Kelley said. “That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing for the past four or five months.”

That’s where that 98 mph fastball comes from, too, according to Kelley. With that football background, Kelley is no stranger to a weight room. But when you’re trying to build velocity on your fastball, it’s not exactly about building muscle mass and getting really big, he said.

Kelley said the most important thing for him is conditioning his body to be strong enough to make sure it is always in the right position on the mound.

Of course, he also admitted that some of that velocity he has comes naturally. And on top of the fastball, Kelley flashes a tremendous breaking ball, as Perfect Game scouts noted when Kelley attended the PG National Showcase in June.

“Showed mature confidence in his changeup and flashed plus with the pitch. Slurve type breaking ball shows feel and tightness and landed them well while showing the ability to mix and sequence his pitches,” part of his report from the event reads.

Kelley said he likes being around all those high-level guys he saw at PG National, many of whom he’ll see again at the Classic.

Being the No. 7 overall prospect, and the proverbial target that puts on his back at those events, doesn’t really bother him, either.

“I try not to pay attention to [the rankings],” Kelley said. “People talk about it all the time, but I just try to stay humble and not worry about those things.”

But hype has followed Kelley everywhere. You get that when you are a Texas High School State Football champion quarterback that puts the helmet on the shelf to focus on baseball.

You get even more of it when you have days where you throw four innings and strike out all 12 batters you face. Kelley did that in a district playoff game this past spring.

With as humble as Kelley is, you won’t get him to go down memory lane on all the times he’s done something like that.

He did say he knows as soon as he wakes up if he’s going to have a special day on the mound, however.

“Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I can tell everything is going to be on,” he said. “Everything feels right and I feel good to go. But when I start throwing, that’s when I really find out if everything is going to be working for me.”

In less than a week, he’ll be waking up in San Diego, heading to Petco Park to play in the All-American Classic. He’s hoping he wakes up feeling good to go again.

“Every time you go into a Big League stadium, it gets you excited every time you step in there,” he said.

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