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Kelly's family looks forward to series vs. Bucs

Kelly's family looks forward to series vs. Bucs

Kelly's family looks forward to series vs. Bucs
DETROIT -- Mother's Day is this Sunday across America, and Carrie Kelly will be like a lot of other wives being thanked by her husband, Don Kelly, the Tigers' super-utility man. For her, though, the big May event comes later this month.

See, Carrie Kelly is the former Carrie Walker, a Pittsburgh-area native and girls basketball star. Her father, Tom Walker, pitched for the Tigers in 1975, midway through a six-year Major League career. Her brother, Neil Walker, is the second baseman for their hometown team, the Pirates.

Her two sons -- and Don's two sons, of course -- have an interesting conflict of interest whenever the Tigers and Pirates face each other. Lately, this has happened quite often.

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Two years ago, when the Pirates came to Detroit, she helped sew together half of a Tigers shirt with half of a Pirates shirt, ironed part of Kelly's No. 32 and part of Walker's No. 18, and put it on their oldest son, Brett. Last year, they got to stay close to home in Pittsburgh, go to PNC Park and root for the Tigers.

This year, they'll have six Tigers-Pirates games -- three at Comerica Park on May 18-20, then three at PNC Park in mid-June, which means two series with divided loyalties.

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"Who does she root for? I think that it would be safe to say that she roots for the Tigers," Kelly said, "but she roots for Neil to get a hit. Just one. Not like that first night in Pittsburgh last year, when he went like 3-for-4 with five RBIs."

It was actually 2-for-5, but he did have five RBIs.

Still, Kelly said, "That's out of the question. One knock would be good for him."

The Walkers, like the Kellys, are an athletic family, which is how the couple met years ago. Don Kelly was just drafted by the Tigers and following his younger sister, Ashlee, during her college basketball career at Quinnipiac University, where she was Northeast Conference Player of the Year and led all Division I players in rebounding as a senior.

At the time, Carrie Walker was an opponent at Wagner College, where she was an all-conference player as well, but also a friend from their high school days in western Pennsylvania. One day at a Quinnipiac-Wagner game, Don and Carrie met through Ashlee, and the relationship began.

Carrie Walker played professional basketball for a season in Ireland before coming home and eventually getting married. Now, they have two sons and a baseball family of their own.

"She understands the commitment that it takes, the sacrifices that take place," Kelly said. "It's huge. She understands, obviously, what it's like to be an athlete, not to mention the fact that she grew up in a baseball family. Not only was she an athlete, but she understands the whole baseball lifestyle and the travel and all the things that go on throughout the season."

In the offseason, they're classic Pittsburghers, going to Penguins and Steelers games every now and then, while trying to keep track of two energetic young athletes-in-waiting. Once the season begins, though, they're Detroiters.

As Don Kelly readily admits, it takes a ton of energy just to keep track of the kids.

"She goes through a lot on a daily basis," he said.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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