Danville, Va. – As the second season of Otterbots baseball inches closer, the club has announced that the manager, hitting coach and pitching coach from their inaugural campaign will all return in the same roles. Manager Desi Relaford will be joined in the dugout by hitting coach Ed Fulton and pitching coach Clyde Keller.
The 2021 Otterbots embodied the spirits of their coaches and ended the season as the hottest team in the league, winning 10 of their final 13 contests. Relaford compiled a .960 career fielding percentage over his 11-year MLB career — the Otterbots led the 2021 Appalachian League in fielding percentage (.965) and double plays (35). Fulton was a patient and present presence at the plate, accumulating 158 walks in his first four professional seasons — the Otterbots led the 2021 Appalachian League in bases on balls (300). Keller displayed dominance on the mound during his professional career, racking up 230 strikeouts and a 23:6 K/BB ratio from 1989-92—the Otterbots led the 2021 Appalachian League in total strikeouts (550).
Relaford returns his plethora of baseball experience and knowledge from nearly every spot on the diamond to the Otterbots. In 2018, Relaford began his coaching career as the bench coach for the Daytona Tortugas, Advanced-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, where he helped guide the team to a 69-66 overall record and a Florida State League Championship Series berth. Prior to the start of his coaching career, Relaford was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the fourth round of the 1991 MLB June Amateur Draft. He spent 11 seasons with seven different teams in Major League Baseball, including five years with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Throughout his career, Relaford hit .243 with 308 RBI and finished the 2001 season with a career-best .302 average, as well as eight home runs and 36 RBI for the Mets. Though he excelled at the plate, Relaford was also known for his versatility in the field. He played every position on defense except first base and catcher throughout his career, and accumulated a .960 career fielding percentage. After retiring in 2008, Relaford started his own record label, 6 Hole Records, in Jacksonville before getting back into the game as a coach in 2018.
Fulton, Danville native and longtime head coach at nearby Averett University, will resume his responsibilities as hitting coach. In 21 seasons at the helm of the Averett program, Fulton won 404 games, claimed the 2003 USA South Conference championship and had three players chosen in the Major League Baseball Draft. Before joining the Cougars coaching staff in 1997, he played nine seasons in the Minor Leagues, including one year in the Appalachian League with Johnson City and six at the Triple-A level. Fulton was chosen by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 16th round of the 1987 draft out of Florida State where he helped the Seminoles win 230 games and advance to the College World Series twice during his collegiate career. As a member of the 1986 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team, Fulton hit .351 with six home runs and 35 RBI in 39 games.
With a background of success in both amateur and professional baseball, Keller returns to Danville as pitching coach for the Otterbots. Previously, he served as the pitching coach at Florida State in 2019 after three seasons as the volunteer assistant for the Seminoles. He also coached in the collegiate ranks form 1997-2000 as the pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at Western Kentucky. Keller then moved to the professional level as the pitching coach for the Single-A Auburn Doubledays in the Toronto Blue Jays organization for the 2001 campaign. His coaching career began in 1994 when he became the head coach at Berkeley Prep in Tampa. In four years at the helm he made three trips to the regionals and one appearance in the state championship. He later returned to the school as its pitching coach from 2011-14.
The Fair Oaks, Calif., native was a two-way player for FSU from 1988-89, earning All-Metro Conference first team honors both seasons. He was also a participant in the 1987 Pan American Games in Indianapolis as a member of the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team. Selected in the 32nd round of the 1989 MLB Draft by the St. Louis Cardinals, Keller spent five years in the minors and was twice named the runner-up for the Rolaids Minor League Reliever of the Year Award (1991, 1992).
Corporate partnership opportunities, season ticket plans and group outing experiences for the 2022 Otterbots season are currently available. For more information, contact the Otterbots front office at 434-554-4487, or [email protected].