He may stick out on the field, with his fully gray hair and somewhat older-looking physique but the energetic Yankees’ first base coach is stronger and more active than ever. The 64-year-old, Michael “Mick” Kelleher, along with coaching first, warms the infielders up before games by hitting sharp grounder, after grounder, after grounder to each infielder. When other men his age would be exhausted and soaked with sweat from warming up the players, he, in obviously great physical shape, barely breaks a sweat and his mind quickly gets into game mode. Kelleher’s focus lies with Robinson Cano. He coached him in the minor leagues and now monitors his development as a second baseman. Mick can also take credit in tutoring Jeter in his early days.
Kelleher had a reputation as a tremendous glove man when he played in the majors: ’72-’82. He played infield for the Cardinals, Astros, Cubs, Tigers, and Angels. With a career BA of .213, surely fielding was his strong point. Some of his most prized moments were: setting an American Association record for MiLB shortstops (with a .979 fielding %) with the Tulsa Oilers in 1972; he won two Rawlings Silver Glove Awards in ’72 and ’75 among the best fielding shortstops; he may be remembered as the “King Kong Killer” from a brawl in ’77 when the 5-foot-9, 170 pound Kelleher jumped on Padres’ Dave “King Kong” Kingman’s 6-foot-6, 210 pound stature, and beat him to a pulp after Kingman took out Kelleher HARD at second base to “break up the double play.” This was in a game that was already brawl-saturated and high-tension. The bench-clearing fight described Kelleher as looking like “a little monkey on King Kong’s back.”
Mick has served as a scout, coach in the minor leagues and for the Pirates in ’86, had a stint with the Tigers from ’03-’05, and from 2009 and on has been with the Yankees. Before “sending the boys to two” and taking batting gloves from who reaches first, he served as a defensive coordinator for the Yankees minor league system.
No. 50 serves as one of the best infield instructors around and only goes to show, age is only a number to the Bombers and some simply get better with age. For with age, comes Yankee greatness. Heck, some of the most seasoned guys on the roster are playing like it’s their rookie year all over again (i.e. Jeter, Ibanez, Jones, and we all know Mo would have this season too). We have a guy (Pettitte) who came out of retirement and is hurling like a rook trying to make a name for himself. And then, a guy, old enough to be the oldest players’ father, mentoring them (with 40 years of experience and wisdom in the game) on when to steal and how to field a “bad hop” grounder. Hey Pedro- who would the Yankees call their Daddy?!