FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Tom Kelly still has a lot to teach the Minnesota Twins.
He wasn’t about to let a health scare keep him from returning to spring training.
Kelly arrived Thursday at the team’s facility, ready to resume work as a guest instructor five months after a minor stroke.
“I was very fortunate,” Kelly said, adding: “I had a lot of big-shot doctors take care of me and really did a nice job.”
He said he’s feeling well, just unable yet to engage in more intensive activity. Maybe he’ll hit 50 grounders one day instead of 100.
“Last week I tried to amp things up a touch. That didn’t work so well. Had a day or two when I had to do nothing,” Kelly said. “But the following day I was fine. I discovered it’s a process. I feel so bad for people who have worse things happen.”
The 64-year-old managed the Twins for 15 seasons before retiring in 2001 and has since worked for the organization as a special assistant to the general manager, focusing his expertise on infield play during spring training and providing scouting reports as needed during the regular season. He has provided color commentary on cable television broadcasts for a handful of games in recent years, too, but Kelly said he thinks he’s done doing that despite a request to continue on a limited basis.
The practice fields are where Kelly is at home, of course, barking instructions and feedback for young players in his growly baritone and sauntering through the CenturyLink Sports Complex like a grandfather of sorts for the team’s uniformed personnel.
“It’s always fun to see the green grass, I’ll tell you that, boy, especially after how cold it’s been up in Minnesota. It’s always good to come down. I don’t want to say it was a challenge thing, but it was a little bit of a challenge to get better and get going and do the things that I’m accustomed to doing,” Kelly said.
This year, Kelly’s tutelage will be valuable for more than just the players. First-time manager Paul Molitor has already sought some advice from his former boss, and there will surely be more informal chats throughout February and March. Molitor played for Kelly with the Twins from 1996-98 and was a bench coach on his staff in 2000-01.
“Every time I talk to him, I always preface it by telling him he has to do what he thinks is right,” Kelly said, adding: “Paul and I talked a lot over the winter. I don’t want to say like you feel like you’re needed here if he has a question or two or whatever, because there are other people here who can handle it.”
But general manager Terry Ryan and team president Dave St. Peter urged Kelly to return, realizing his influence on the entire camp. For Molitor, for example, one piece of Kelly’s advice was to manage a couple of games the last week of spring training just like he will in the regular season to start to get a feel for the various aspects of strategy he’ll soon be responsible for juggling.
“It’s a good thing for me,” Molitor said. “The understatement of the year is that he has a wealth of knowledge. He just sees things in a different light. He just experienced everything you can experience up here obviously. If I missed things like I obviously will, he’ll try to fill in some of those spots.”
This is Molitor’s team, of course. Kelly has tried to make that clear many times. “Do you mind if I throw a few things out there?” has been his typical approach to Molitor.
“And I say, ‘Give me my paper,'” Molitor said at his desk, pretending to write.
(© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)