Ty Kelly of Team Israel bats in the second inning...

Ty Kelly of Team Israel bats in the second inning against Team South Korea during the knockout stage of men's baseball at the Tokyo Olympic Games at Yokohama Baseball Stadium on Aug. 2 in Yokohama, Japan. Credit: Getty Images/Yuichi Masuda

It felt like a movie, but not in the way Ty Kelly had hoped. As the former-Met was walking through the opening ceremonies at the Olympics in Tokyo last month, he couldn’t help but notice who wasn’t there. Of course, the thrill of being an Olympian will be something he’ll never forget, but the absence of fans made Kelly part of the most unorthodox summer games in modern times.

"We definitely missed out on a really cool experience, being able to have fans at both games and the opening ceremonies," said Kelly, 33, who played baseball for Israel and signed with the Ducks Friday afternoon. "The opening ceremony stadium that we were in was unbelievable. But there were no people in the stands, so it sort of felt like we were just walking through. It was almost like we were shooting a movie or something and they were going to CGI fans in."

Israel went 1-4 in the Olympics, losing two games by one run and barely missing out on a berth in the bronze medal game. They blew 4-2 and 6-5 leads in their final game, watching the Dominican Republic ruin their medal dreams with two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning.

"It was devastating to not be able to win that game against the Dominican because we would have been, at least, in the bronze medal game," said Kelly, who played parts of three seasons with the Mets from 2016-18. "It sort of would have made everything feel even more worth it. We all get to look back on the experience, say that we were Olympians, that we got to be in Olympic Village, and take part in the Olympics. But if we could just have gotten those last three outs, I think it would have been a completely different experience for all of us."

Israel spent two weeks in Tokyo, spending the first week practicing and adjusting to the time difference. Practices were under two hours long and extra batting cage use was off limits, so as not to give teams an unfair advantage, Kelly said.

In the Olympic Village, mingling with other athletes was virtually non-existent because of COVID-19 concerns.

"Everyone mostly stayed to themselves and [with] their own teams," Kelly said. "Some people tried to do a little mingling, but it was very hard. Everyone was wearing masks everywhere and I think everyone just wanted to stay as safe as they could, and not risk getting COVID the day before their event."

Kelly said he had fun at the games and called it a ‘great experience,’ but the atmosphere was undeniably different.

"Everything felt very low key and you can't help but think about the possibilities of what it would have been like had fans been allowed to be there," he said.

Kelly’s focus now shifts from Japan to Central Islip where he has, at long last, joined the Ducks. Kelly signed with the Ducks before the season, but had his contract purchased by the Mariners a week before the Atlantic League season started. He played 24 games with Triple-A Tacoma, hit .227 with two home runs and 10 RBIs and was released on July 8, three weeks before Israel’s first Olympic game.

"I think this was always in the back of my mind, that I would like to come back and try to give the rest of this year a shot and see what happens," Kelly said of Long Island. "This has always seemed like a very good place to do that."

Kelly, who went 0-for-2 with a walk and an RBI in his Ducks debut Friday night, played for Ducks manager Wally Backman when he was in the Mets minor league system. Backman said Kelly’s versatility will give the Ducks a wealth of options as they prepare for the playoffs. The Ducks have already secured their spot in those playoffs, which begin Oct. 11, by winning the Atlantic League North Division first half championship.

"I’m excited to have him," Backman said. "He can play just about anywhere in the field. I had him in Triple A before he went to the big leagues, and that year I played him at third, short, second, and the outfield. The versatility is huge. He’s going to be able to play on a regular basis on this team until the end [of the regular season]. We’ll see what pans out [after that]."

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