(BaseballStL) -- Joe Kelly has played several roles on the field, from late-inning guy to set up man, to starting pitcher. One part he has played consistently is the clubhouse class clown.
The world got a taste of Kelly's antics in Game 6, when he and Scott Van Slyke had an 11-minute standoff to see who would be the last man to enter the dugout following the national anthem. Friday, the national media met the Cardinal's most colorful character, and he did not disappoint.
After speaking on standard baseball topics like Boston's lineup and the joys of returning home, Kelly fielded questions about his personal life, pulling back the curtain just enough to draw some laughs.
"I'm horrible with musical instruments. Can't sing and I can't play an instrument.," he said. "But I played basketball and football." The basketball tidbit led to speculation as to whether or not the young pitcher could dunk.
Rumors persist that the 25-year-old Kelly can windmill dunk a basketball while standing under the hoop, and before the cadre of baseball reporters, he addressed the growing legend.
"The windmill standing underneath is false, but I can definitely dunk from standing underneath by jumping straight up," he said. Before pride got the best of him, he tempered his response. "I don't want to talk about dunking abilities, and that's probably not good. I don't think the GM wants to hear that. I don't play basketball in the offseason, but, yes, I can dunk a basketball from very different parts of the court."
Basketball prowess notwithstanding, Kelly has proven himself a dynamic athletic talent all season long. His patience and ability has led him to his first World Series start, his fourth of the postseason. With such an enormous contest looming, some may take Kelly's levity as potential lack of focus. Cardinal manager Mike Matheny sees just the opposite, and praises his young starter's ability to match his personality with competition.
"I think a lot of our guys are free in this clubhouse to kind of be themselves," he said. "He's a funny guy, he enjoys life. He's all the time doing some things you wouldn't expect him to do. But when it comes down to pitching, he's ready to compete. You need that balance through the season in order to, one, you need to be yourself in order to be as effective as you can; and two, to be able to just make your way through a long season. You have to be able to find some levity. And Joe's been able to find that."
Matheny also said the freedom to be expressive is exemplified by the veteran pitchers on the staff. Adam Wainwright has never been shy, dancing and singing in the clubhouse and in the dugout.
Such loose personalities are mixed with a razor sharp competitive edge the permeates the entire pitching staff. No matter the arena, Kelly said the young Cardinal pitchers have constantly pushed each other, trying the best the others.
" If you've seen our staff this whole entire year, we've been pushing each other from the very get‑go, and ever since I entered myself back into the staff," he said. "We watch each other's bullpens, we push each other in the weight room. We compete. We want who's faster, who jumps higher. Everything is a competition."
He will have quite the act to follow, as Michael Wacha picked up another postseason win despite giving up a home run to David Ortiz for his first runs in nearly 19 innings.
Despite the size of the stage, Kelly's focus remains where it always is before game day- away from the mound.
"To tell you the truth, I don't really like to lock in and focus on my start until the day of," he said. "Like the night before, I usually stay up playing video games all night, competitive gaming, more Call of Duty. You don't want to put too much emphasis and just mentally drain yourself of thinking, 'man, this is a huge start,' and you have to go out there and perform. That's not the way to go about it, as I would take it."