David Kelton is ready.
After spending four seasons as an understudy to LaGrange College head baseball coach Kevin Howard, Kelton has taken over the program.
Howard left following the 2013 season to become the head coach at Reinhardt, and Kelton was the obvious choice to replace him at LaGrange College.
Not only did Kelton have the four years of experience coaching at LaGrange College, but he also had a stint as the head coach at Springwood School in Alabama, and he was a professional baseball player for nearly 10 years.
Kelton will make his debut as the Panthers’ head coach today when the team opens its season on the road against Birmingham-Southern.
“It was a great four years under (Howard),” Kelton said. “There aren’t too many guys that I’ve been around that have as good of a baseball mind as his. It is one of those things where I was here, and I was able to learn under him, plus get my education at the same time.”
Kelton was a standout player at Troup High, and the Chicago Cubs made him a second-round draft pick in 1998.
He played until 2006, and he had a couple of stints in the big leagues with the Cubs.
In his major-league debut, Kelton was with the Cubs when they hosted the New York Yankees.
Kelton got onto the field in a pinch-hitting role, and he said that was an unforgettable experience.
“When I got up to bat, it’s a Wrigley Field tradition where they give all new players a standing ovation,” Kelton said last summer. “Thank God I didn’t strike out. I don’t know how I made contact. I had so much nerves and emotions going on. I was able to put the ball in play. As soon as I ran off the field, it’s another tradition as well, is they give you another standing ovation. It was overwhelming.”
When Kelton retired, he had nearly 1,000 hits and 116 home runs.
After leaving his playing days behind him, Kelton turned his focus to coaching, and after a successful stay at Springwood, he joined Howard’s staff.
“Right when I finished my education, (Howard) moved on to Reinhardt, and now I’m able to step in and really just kind of implement my style of baseball,” Kelton said.