HOUSTON -- It took Don Kelly less than two years out of a Major League uniform to come to the realization he wanted to be back on the field.
Enter Astros manager AJ Hinch, who was seeking to piece together his coaching staff after three members of his 2018 staff left for promotions with other teams. Kelly, who was in the D-backs' system when Hinch was director of player development for Arizona, was hired by Hinch in November as the Astros' first-base coach and is eager for his latest opportunity.
"For me to join a team like Houston and get back on the field, it's awesome and I'm really looking forward to it," he said.
Kelly, 38, spent the previous two seasons as a pro scout for the Tigers following a nine-year Major League career during which he played all nine positions, including a blowout game against the Mets in 2011 in which he made an appearance on the mound. He needed five pitches to get Scott Hairston to fly out.
Kelly reached folk-hero status as a super-utility player during this time in Detroit, becoming a postseason hero during the club's run of four consecutive AL Central titles (2011-14), where he was a teammate of Astros pitcher Justin Verlander. Kelly said he was designated for assignment nine times in his career, which gives him a greater sense of how difficult it can be to stick in the big leagues.
"He's extremely relatable to today's players, and his energy and his passion and really his expertise -- he played every position in the big leagues -- he's as relatable as they come as far as first-year coaches," Hinch said.
Kelly, one of three new coaches this year on Hinch's staff, will handle baserunning, as well as provide some infield and outfield assistance.
"As a player and playing all over the place and playing all positions and grinding it out, I was able to relate to the players," Kelly said. "Having the career I had and to be able to help a player any way I could, it was very appealing."
One area where Kelly won't provide much input is pitching, despite his career 0.00 ERA. He said the Astros' rotation is in good hands with Verlander.
"He's a tremendous competitor," Kelly said. "Every time he takes the ball, he goes out there to win. He wins a lot. That's just a guy when you get in those big games -- and you got to see it a couple of years ago in Houston -- he steps up and he's awesome, man. He goes out there and takes the ball. He's intense and he brings that every single day to the field. When you're on the other side, you don't want to see him standing 60 feet away."
In addition to Kelly, the Astros added Troy Snitker (hitting coach) and Josh Miller (bullpen coach) to the big league staff in November. Snitker, who was the hitting coach at Double-A Corpus Christi last season, will share the hitting coach duties with Alex Cintron, a former big leaguer who last season was the Astros' first-base coach. Snitker is the son of Braves manager Brian Snitker.
The rest of Hinch's coaching staff returns from last season in their same roles: bench coach Joe Espada, pitching coach Brent Strom and third-base coach Gary Pettis. The Astros lost hitting coaches Dave Hudgens and Jeff Albert, along with bullpen coach Doug White, to other teams in promotions.