LaGrange College baseball coach David Kelton had a personal interest as he watched the Chicago Cubs end a 108-year drought, winning Game 7 of the World Series on Wednesday to claim their first title since 1908.
Kelton spent eight years of his pro career in the Cubs' organization. A graduate of Troup County High School, he was drafted by Chicago in 1998 in the second round as the 46th overall pick.
"I could not be more excited for the Cubs organization and the loyal Cubs fan base all over the world," he said. "I was 18 years old when I started my professional career with them, and had to grow up very quick. I started out at the lowest level and worked my way through the minor league system, making it to the big leagues in 2003."
Kelton made his major league debut on June 8, 2003, in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field as a pinch hitter against the New York Yankees.
"My first-ever call up was when Hesop Choi and Kerry Wood collided in the infield and Choi suffered a concussion against the Yankees at Wrigley Field in 2003," he recalled. "I was in Triple A at the time in Des Moines, Iowa. I was called up the next day for the Sunday night ESPN game."
Kelton made his first start three days later at Baltimore, getting his first major league hit, an infield single, and later a double in the same game. He did three different stints with the Cubs during the 2003 season, one coming after the Cubs' all-star slugger Sammy Sosa was suspended for an illegal corked bat.
He finished his pro career in the Atlanta Braves organization. As a pro, he had 910 hits, 116 home runs and 517 RBIs. In 2002, Kelton was the minor league player of the year, and selected as Topp's Player of the Month. He appeared in the Futures All-Star game at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago in 2003.
Kelton is entering his fourth season as the Panthers' head coach. He guided LC to a 30-13 record last season and the team returns a strong nucleus for 2017, where the Panthers will be one of the favorites to win the USA South championship.
While he was in Chicago, he said he saw firsthand the devotion of the Cubs' fans, who were always saying "Wait until next year" as they saw chances to end the long dry spell slip away.
"Watching the team win the World Series just brought back a lot of great memories that I had during my time with the Cubs," he said. "I was able to witness how passionate the Cubs fan base really is. They are probably the most loyal and devoted fan base in sports and this win means everything to them.
"Finally, the fans can relax and enjoy what a great postseason this was for this young and very talented team. The future is very bright in Chicago."