February 24, 2024

Shohei Ohtani is a Dodger, and the wife of relief pitcher Joe Kelly may be able to take some of the credit.

Ohtani ended months of speculation Saturday by announcing he would sign with the Dodgers as a free agent. He had spent all six years of his Major League Baseball career with the Angels, wearing jersey No. 17 as he was earning two American League MVP awards and becoming a two-way phenomenon.

It’s the same jersey number Kelly, who had just re-signed with the Dodgers for one year and $8 million, has worn since 2019. Of course, it ended up not being an issue — Ohtani will wear No. 17 and Kelly will wear No. 99, the Dodgers confirmed Tuesday.

Kelly’s new number was first revealed Sunday in an Instagram video posted Monday night by his wife, Ashley Kelly.

There’s a story behind all this. As Ohtani mulled his free agency decision last week, Ashley Kelly launched a tongue-in-cheek campaign to convince the Japanese superstar to join her husband on the Dodgers.

Using the hashtag #ohtake17, the former UC Riverside women’s soccer player posted a very funny video on Instagram on Friday in which she promises Ohtani not only her husband’s jersey number, but all of the family’s gear bearing it — even the ones that also features Joe Kelly’s image and/or name.

“Plenty of different sizes in the 17 department,” Ashley Kelly said while showing a multitude of Dodgers jerseys with that number. “I mean, I already have your mom ready to go,” she added, while turning one of the shirts to reveal the name “Mama” on the back, “so everything’s good there.”

She offers to “pick off the beading” that spells “Kelly” on one item and to use a marker to alter the lettering on another. Regarding one item that shows a stenciled version of her husband’s face, the certified Lagree Fitness professional states, “I don’t think anyone’s gonna notice that that’s not you. It kind of looks like you and yeah, I think we’ll be fine there.”

At one point, she holds up a jersey and uses her finger to trace over her husband’s autograph while saying Ohtani’s name: “Look — Sho-hei Oh-tani. Again, no one’s gonna know.”

Oh, and Kelly also reveals in the video that she has changed the name of their fourth child, 7-month-old Kai, to ShoKai as part of the effort. She made the same change to the baby boy’s name in her Instagram bio.

Two days later, Kelly returned to Instagram with another video, this time celebrating Ohtani agreeing to a 10-year, $700-million contract with the Dodgers. In it, she gleefully tosses all the No. 17 items onto the family’s front lawn while blowing them goodbye kisses.

At the end, Joe Kelly comes out wearing a white T-shirt, which his wife quickly inscribes with “Kelly 99” in marker on the back, revealing the fourth jersey number of his 13-year career. The Dodgers pitcher then gestures toward the yard and says, “Clean this up.”

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