Photos by Brian Paglia
Former Dutchtown baseball player Kelvin Tanner has put together a strong career at Clark Atlanta University.
Kelvin Tanner only swung once his entire senior season of baseball at Dutchtown High School.
Now he swings a lot.
At Dutchtown, he was on the shelf on the disabled list for the entirety of the 2010 season. His one at-bat was a tribute from coach Michael Breedlove, a surprise pinch-hitting appearance on Senior Night with strict guidelines — if Tanner made contact, he had to jog cautiously to first base to save his ACL injury from flaring up.
Nothing is holding back Tanner now. Completely healthy, the left-handed hitting first baseman and rising junior at Clark Atlanta has terrorized Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference pitching.
He’s coming off a first-team all-SIAC season as a sophomore, in which he hit .355 with 13 doubles, one home run and 36 RBIs. Which only served to validate his Freshman of the Year performance the previous season.
Things are looking easy for Tanner these days.
“I expected [college baseball] to be extremely hard, the coaches harder on you, but it didn’t turn out like that,” Tanner said. “I felt like I had some better competition in high school, as far as when I went to the playoffs. That was different for me.”
Indeed, that’s why Tanner is playing for the OTC Bearcats out of Locust Grove in the Sunbelt Baseball League, a wooden-bat summer league for college players. Against the top players on regional college baseball teams, Tanner gets to see strong pitching and stay fresh.
“I just use it to get better,” Tanner said. “It’s better competition than the conference I play in. Good players from good schools. There’s better pitching and a better chance to get my skills right.”
Tanner had no chance to put his skills on display his senior year at Dutchtown.
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound athlete was also a star running back for the Bulldogs, and on the next-to-last game of the season, he went down with a torn ACL. Expecting to miss his entire senior year, Tanner was devastated.
But Tanner had a bargaining chip with college recruiters — his grades.
“Man his GPA was up there,” Breedlove said. “It was closer to 4.0 than it was 3.0.”
Despite a lost year of baseball as a senior, Tanner still held appeal to smaller college programs who could offer him athletic and academic scholarships.
Clark Atlanta came offering a full scholarship, and Tanner seized it.
“I’m getting paid pretty good to be there,” he said.
Everything’s been smooth since. Tanner got to return to baseball and still dreams of attracting the attention of professional scouts, but in the meanwhile he’s putting down the roots of his future with a computer information degree.
No surprise, he was named to the SIAC all-academic team last season.
“Everybody has that dream to play pro ball, but I’m just trying to get my degree and make sure I have a good job in my field.”
Not that there haven’t been challenges for Tanner at Clark Atlanta.
Chief among them helping the Panthers become competitive. Clark Atlanta is coming off a 5-34 season, including a dismal 1-20 record in conference play.
Tanner finds a way to thrive anyway.
“I’m really proud of him,” Breedlove said. “To see someone work hard and not give up when things don’t go their way. ... He’s kept his head up and kept working.”