NITRO, W.Va. — Former in-state baseball product Levi Kelly is now getting set for his journey of professional baseball after completing his senior season at IMG Academy in Florida this spring.

Kelly was drafted in the eighth round of the Major Leauge Baseball Draft earlier this month, going the Arizona Diamondbacks as the overall 249th pick of the draft.

“It was unreal,” Kelly said on Pulp Sports Weekly with Jordan Pauley (airs on MetroNews affiliate ESPN Radio 106.7 and 1490 in Charleston). “(The draft) was super stressful. I had a bunch of people down and everyone was super excited, it was awesome.”

High school fans in West Virginia may recall Kelly’s story as a Nitro freshman back in 2015 when he emerged onto the recruiting scene as one of the nation’s top prospects, ultimately committing that year to LSU.

Both of those MetroNews stories from 2015 are linked below:

Look back: Nitro freshman phenom Kelly surging on national baseball recruiting radar

More: Nitro’s prized freshman Kelly commits to LSU

“Going into my freshman year at Nitro, I went to a camp in Fort Myers and hit 90 mph for the first time,” Kelly said. “Everything kind of blew up there and that’s when I started receiving a lot of offers to D-I programs.

“That’s when I really noticed there weren’t too many kids in the country throwing as hard as I was, or having the stuff that I did,” he continued. “That’s when it took off and when my parents came behind me and supported every move that I made.”

After moving to Florida that summer, Kelly played his sophomore season at IMG Academy, his junior year at Bishop Verot High School in Florida and then back to IMG Academy this past year.

Drafted in the eighth round by Arizona this month, Kelly ultimately signed with the Diamondbacks rather than going the college route, agreeing to a signing bonus worth more than double the slotted value for his spot in the draft ($350,000 signing bonus, as compared with the pick value of $158,500).

“The coaches at LSU are unreal,” Kelly said. “It was tough to pass that up, but my dream was to play professional baseball and you only really get one shot at that. An injury or something might take place, so you might not ever get that call again.”

This past year at IMG, Kelly posted a 1.40 ERA with 76 strikeouts in 45 innings. Overall, Kelly ended his high school career with 306 total strikeouts.

Kelly now consistently throws above 90 mph, reaching as high as 95 or 96 mph as well.

At the IMG Classic this past year, Kelly hit 97 mph, joining former IMG alum and 2016 12th overall pick (Boston Red Sox) Jason Groome to reach that velocity with the Academy.

“There are a ton of guys who throw hard at this level,” Kelly said. “But what separates you is being able to pitch and deal with failure.”

Regardless, it’s been an eventful last few years for Kelly who now gets to officially begin his ultimate journey of professional baseball.

Kelly has begun summer weight training and long tossing already and will start bullpen sessions July 15 (he will be limited to 15 innings through this year). He will receive his first full-season assignment after spring training in 2019.

The complete interview with Kelly from Pulp Sports Weekly with Jordan Pauley is posted at the top of the page. 

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