Kelenic's 482-foot homer: 'About as far as they go'

Outfielder blasts Mariners' longest HR of Statcast era; goes deep for third straight day

April 12th, 2023

CHICAGO -- It’s not often a player hits a home run into the second deck of bleacher seats under the historic center-field scoreboard at Wrigley Field.

But in the Mariners’ 5-2 win over the Cubs on Wednesday, made it look effortless.

“That's probably the furthest I’ve ever hit a ball,” Kelenic said of the 482-foot home run he parked in the bleachers in the eighth inning.

On a warm Chicago day with the wind blowing out, Kelenic reached down for a 98-mph fastball from Cubs reliever Julian Merryweather, driving it halfway up the second level of bleacher seats in center field.

“It's about as far as they go to center field,” said Mariners manager Scott Servais, who played for the Cubs from 1995-98. “Certainly, the wind was blowing out today, but that ball was absolutely smoked. I played with Mr. [Sammy] Sosa for a few years. I never saw him go up to that level in center field.”

Kelenic's blast:

• Was the second-longest homer hit at Wrigley Field during the Statcast era (2015-present), trailing only Willson Contreras’ 491-foot knock in Game 4 of 2017 NLCS

• Was the longest homer by a Mariner in the Statcast era, surpassing Mike Zunino’s 470-foot homer on Sept. 13, 2017

• Was the second-longest of the season, behind Giancarlo Stanton's 485-foot shot on April 2

• Was one of just 38 homers in the Statcast era to travel at least 482 feet

“It felt smooth, felt pretty effortless, honestly, and that's what you want in a swing,” Kelenic said. “I just got a pitch right where I was looking for and was on time for it.”

Kelenic has had an uneven start to his big league career, with the former top prospect and first-round Draft pick going through lasting struggles at the plate his first two seasons. But he’s still just 23 years old, with a makeup and raw talent that you can’t teach.

His start to the 2023 season has been equal parts eye-opening, impressive and promising. Kelenic is hitting .351/.415/.703 with three homers, five RBIs and four walks.

“He has not wavered,” Servais said before Wednesday’s game. “He's stayed with his approach and with his plan, and it's paying off for him. He looks great, and I'm really excited where he is at, and really, probably more excited to see where this goes going forward.

“For years we've been talking about the talent, the talent, the talent, the potential, and all those other things. Now we're starting to see it play out. Happy for him. He's a big part of our offense.”

That was apparent during the Mariners’ three-game series against the Cubs. Kelenic went 5-for-9 and homered in all three games. The Waukesha, Wis. native did so with his parents, aunt and uncle, grandparents and high school friends in attendance.

All three home runs were impressive. His solo home run Monday had a 111.1 mph exit velocity, traveled 414 feet and banged off Wrigley’s video board above the right-field bleachers.

Tuesday’s drive -- Kelenic’s personal favorite of the three -- had a 107.2 mph and went 415 feet to the opposite field.

“Backside homers like that are my favorite,” he said. “Anybody can pull the ball, but when you can hit a ball true backspin the other way, that's best, I think, swing in my book.”

Servais said that home run was also his favorite, and “as impressive as anything I’ve seen.” But as great as the homers are, the Mariners skipper has been just as impressed with Kelenic's approach: not chasing results while maintaining his ability to lay off pitches and take his walks. He drew two free passes on Tuesday. He also barely missed another home run, crushing a 7th-inning double 410 feet to center off the railing of the baskets along the top of the Wrigley Field wall.

It’s early, but Kelenic appears to be in a great place this season.

“Just raw ability, it’s pretty awesome to watch,” Servais said. “You know it’s in there, but you have to be able to play the game for that to come out. Talk about playing the game, like taking pitches, working counts, not panicking when you get down with two strikes -- that's playing the game.

“You take a combination of the talent, now he’s understanding how to play the game. When it comes together, big things happen. Not little things, big things happen. And those type of players can do that. He's in a great spot right now. I'm really, really happy for him.”