For 29 years, Tom Kelly has been the White Sox 'bullpen bellman'
Tom Kelly always wanted to become a circus clown, and for 17-years, he did just that. When he retired, the former police officer joined the Chicago White Sox. During every home game, Kelly sits with pitchers and coaches in the bullpen to protect and assist the team with their every need.
Kelly has been with the team for 29 years -- and has seen it all.
As you can imagine, things can get weird sitting in the bullpen for 81 home games -- but that's right up Kelly's alley. Years ago, a White Sox pitcher passed the time by attempting to light his teammates' shoelaces on fire. Artfully, he would crawl under the bullpen benches to pull off the prank. It worked on everyone but Kelly.
When a rabid fan attempted to run across the field, Kelly was right there chasing him down. Fifteen feet into his stride though, Kelly's trousers slipped down to his ankles. Although Kelly was exposed to thousands of fans at US Cellular Field, the unruly trespasser was apprehended. During the next homestand, the White Sox presented Kelly with pair of orange suspenders.
Kelly has also received several other gifts, including a custom World Series watch after Chicago won the 2005 championship and a batting helmed adorned with a bulls-eye after a cell phone dropped by a fan hit him in the head.
Kelly preps, cleans and sets up equipment in the bullpen. When a pitcher gets called to warm up, he gently places their jacket and gear on the bullpen fence. He stands by, watching the crowd and player, armed with a water bottle to quench their thirst.
He studies every player's routine and keys in on their needs and superstitions. He even has a special technique to open the gate to the playing field when a pitcher enters the game -- a wide lower body base, always holding out his right fist to wish them luck.
After 29 years serving the White Sox, the "bullpen bellman" has earned many thanks, a few mementos and countless stories about one of baseball's most historic franchises.