15 August 2010

1983 TCMA Greensboro Hornets #19 Roberto Kelly

      Signed by the Yankees, in 1982, as an undrafted amateur out of Panama, Roberto Kelly began his professional career in Bradenten, Florida, playing for the Gulf Coast League Yankees as an 18 year old shortstop.  Interestingly, Kelly played alongside just one other future Major Leaguer on that GCL team, a young first baseman by the name of Fred McGriff.  Probably because the rate of attrition is so high, no one ever really makes baseball cards of Gulf Coast Leaguers, so this is Roberto Kelly's very first baseball card.

      As is often mentioned by scouts and management, in the lowest levels of the minor league system, players (especially those from Latin America that often lack the background in organized baseball of their counterparts from the US) are being looked at more for their tools, skills and polish more than actual performance.  As evidenced by his stats on the back of the card, he didn't fare very well in 1982, but apparently showed enough promise to warrant a promotion to the short-season Oneonta Yankees of the New York/Penn League for the first half of 1983, where he was moved to the outfield, probably to take better advantage of his speed.   Finishing the year in Greensboro, of the South Atlantic League, Kelly showed improvement at every promotion.

    On a side note, 1983 was an interesting year for TCMA, as they printed cards on both the standard thin, white card stock they'd been using since the mid-1970s (seen in this earlier post on Steve Howard), as well as the thicker, Topps-style grey/brown card stock.  I'm not entirely sure whether or not that was the cause of the super grainy photos.

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