Twenty Under Forty: Former MLB player, Kelton, has LaGrange College baseball winning big

Published 1:08 pm Tuesday, July 3, 2018

His life and his career were at a crossroads.

After nearly a decade as a professional baseball player, including stints in 2002 and 2003 in the big leagues with the Chicago Cubs, it was time for David Kelton to turn the page, and he had no idea what he was going to do.

Kelton was a member of the Richmond Braves in 2006, and then his playing career was over.

“I’ll be honest with you. I had absolutely no clue what I was going to do,” said Kelton, who was a second-round draft pick in 1998 after a phenomenal stint as a baseball player at Troup High. “My whole life, my mind was just playing ball. I was that naive individual that thought he was going to play 10 years in the big leagues. That’s what it was going to be.”

Coaching was a possibility, but because Kelton had been so laser-focused on his playing career, he hadn’t spent much time contemplating it.

“I think I had it in the back of my mind, maybe coaching,” Kelton said. “But I’d never put much thought into it. I just didn’t think about it. I was so consumed with just my career and playing. I just didn’t think about the after. I never thought about it until it slammed right in my face. I had to think about it.”

Kelton decided to give coaching a go, and that’s a decision that has paid major dividends. After a stint as the head baseball coach at Springwood School in 2007, Kelton joined the staff at LaGrange College where he also became a student to pursue his degree. When Kevin Howard left to take over the baseball program at Reinhardt following the 2013 season, LaGrange College athletics director Jennifer Claybrook didn’t look far for his replacement.

Kelton was promoted to the head-coaching position, and the LaGrange College program has thrived under his leadership. The Panthers had losing records in Kelton’s first two seasons, but the team has a combined record of 100-37 the past three years. LaGrange College has won back-to-back USA South championships, and it has made two straight appearances in the NCAA Division III national tournament. Kelton believes his background as a player, most notably the eight years he spent as a pro, helped get him ready to be a coach.

“I believe that 100 percent. I know it got me prepared,” Kelton said. “I think back on a lot of experiences, and a lot of times it helps me with some of my decision-making. I feel a lot more comfortable just from the longevity I’ve had in the game.”

Kelton also credits Kevin Howard for helping him make the transition from player to coach.

“Working under Kevin for four years, he’s one of the smartest baseball minds I’ve ever been around,” the 38-year-old Kelton said. “His baseball IQ is through the roof, so he helped me adapt to the college game. I didn’t know the college game. I didn’t understand it. I just knew professional baseball.”

Kelton, and his wife Meredith have three children, Mary Elliott, Grady and Hill.