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Chiefs’ Travis Kelce shares story of batting against ex-MLB pitcher Jon Lester

During his 16-year career, left-hander Jon Lester made five All-Star appearances, was part of three World Series championship teams and struck out Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.

OK, the latter never happened during a Major League Baseball game.

But in the latest episode of the New Heights podcast, Kelce shared a story about stepping into a batting cage against Lester, who retired after the 2021 season.

Kelce didn’t say where or when he took some swings against Lester, but it sounds like it happened when Lester was pitching for the Cubs from 2015-2020.

“I actually got in the cage against Jon Lester right before Covid,” Kelce said. “He was throwing a complete game in the cage against what looked like some guys (who) were making their way onto the team, or kind of like Triple-A, Double-A guys trying to make the team and in spring training.

“They said that I could get in there if I wanted to and get an at-bat and ... not just like him throw me a fastball, like actually he’s working on his pitches. And he’s working on his endurance and everything to get ready for the season. He’s throwing an actual game, right? I didn’t even see the first fastball go past me. And then I started to lock in. The second fastball went by, completely missed it. Strike two. Threw me a curveball, didn’t get over the plate. Got lucky with that one. Threw me a cutter, foul tipped it.

“I was thinking, I’m on it now. He let me get the bat on the ball, I’m on it now. Cutter again, swung right over the top. Five pitches back to the dugout. I said, ‘Hey, thank you, Mr. Lester. Appreciate you blessing me with this memory that I’ll have forever. Thank you.’”

Kelce wasn’t some hack.

When he was at the University of Cincinnati, Kelce played baseball after he was kicked off the football team.

Kelce later rejoined the Bearcats football team and ended up being drafted by the Chiefs. As he mentioned on the podcast, Kelce thought baseball could be a fallback option for him if football hadn’t worked out.

“It was always something in the back of my mind that I knew I had a chance at if I wanted to give it a run,” Kelce said. “You know, I think my size and my athleticism, as well as the fact that I could throw a baseball, I could track a baseball in the outfield, like I felt like I would always get a chance.

“So it was always in the back of my mind that I had that as like a Plan B, which is why I tried to, you know, play in 2010 when I got kicked off the team for a little bit. I was always just kind of like keeping that alive in a sense. Baseball is such a slow game to me. And I really, really enjoyed baseball when I had a fun team to be around, when I had good guys and like some of the all-star teams I was on. I couldn’t find just the love for the game like I had in basketball or I had in football or even in hockey and lacrosse.

“I just knew that it was fun with the teams that I had been on, and that I had a chance or at least I had interest from scouts and colleges that were looking at me to play. So it was like, ‘All right, this is an option if I want to go there.’”

Fortunately for Chiefs fans, the football thing worked out just fine for Kelce.