Photo by Heather Middleton
By Derrick Mahone
Kelvin Tanner certainly knows how to make up for lost time.
The former Dutchtown High student missed his entire senior baseball season while recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. However, after months of rehab, he was able to play his freshman season this spring at Clark Atlanta University.
Tanner became one of the stars of the young team.
He was named the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
Freshman of the Year after leading the Panthers with six home runs and 32 RBIs with a team-high .370 batting average. He also had 13 doubles, sixth-best in the lead and was ranked fourth in the league with a .676 slugging percentage.
"With a young team this season, Kelvin stood out as a powerful and consistent hitter for us," CAU coach Derwin McNeely said.
The Panthers struggled this season with a 4-28 overall record and 0-15 in the league. But that didn't curve Tanner's enthusiasm to get back on the playing field. "I'm pretty pleased because I felt like I was contributing to the team," said Tanner, who played first base. "I was disappointed in our record and finish, but I realize that we are trying to build a program. I feel we are headed in the right direction and will get on the right track."
Tanner, a running back in high school, sustained the ACL injury with two games left in the 2009 football season at Dutchtown. The Bulldogs would miss the Class AAAA playoffs by a game, but Tanner was sidelined for the entire baseball season.
Again, the Bulldogs would miss the state baseball playoffs by a game. With a strong academic record and the help of his high school coaches, Tanner would secure a football and baseball scholarship to CAU.
He also considered an academic offer from Tusculum College in Tennessee, but was hoping to also continue his athletic career. The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder found that opportunity at CAU, a Div. II school near downtown Atlanta.
While still fully recovering from the torn ACL, Tanner was redshirted but was allowed to participate in practices and other team activities. "I felt a part of the team," Tanner said. "The only difference was that I didn't play in any games." The Panthers went 4-6 under first-year coach Daryl McNeill as they averaged 92 yards per game rushing. Leading rusher Winston Thompson was a senior last season. While balancing playing both football and baseball on the collegiate level, Tanner was able to achieve academic success.
He finished his freshman year with a 3.58 grade-point average to make the Dean's List as computer information systems major.
"It is a special accomplishment, because I always put my grades first," Tanner said. "I want to keep my academic scholarship. You have to make sure you stay on top of your work because will would have to work twice as hard."
There is no rest for Tanner this summer as he holds down a part-time job while playing summer baseball for the Rockdale Roadrunners, which is coached by former major league outfielder Marquis Grissom. Last summer, Tanner wasn't able to play summer ball because of the injury.
"This is a great opportunity for me," he said. "We are coached by people that have major and minor league experience. It will give me a chance to show off my skills."