The Dodgers reserve and Cards right-hander had their teammates giggling and Twitter in a state of LOL after engaging in a bizarre and lighthearted stunt before things got serious.
It began as business as usual. Players from both teams had lined up outside the dugouts for the national anthem, standing at attention with their hats over their hearts. Most of them then retreated after the final note.
All except Van Slyke and Kelly, who remained standing at attention, hats over hearts, for nearly 15 minutes, long enough for the grounds crew to finish its final preparations and for the Cardinals' starters to take the field. They still stood there, Van Slyke a step off the dugout rail on the third-base side, and Kelly all the way out along the edge of the grass near the first-base line, when St. Louis pitcher Michael Wacha finished his warmup pitches on the mound. Perhaps fearing for Van Slyke's safety, a well-meaning Dodgers teammate placed a helmet on the stoic outfielder's head.
"I'd never done that," Van Slyke said. "I stayed out there after the anthem was over and noticed Kelly was out there, too, and I figured I would stay longer than him. Then I caught his eye and he had this big smile, like he was telling me he could stay longer than I could, and before you know it, it was just the two of us.
"It felt like a really long time. My back was tightening up and my feet hurt. I tried to get him to leave, but he looked away. Guys in the dugout were yelling at me telling me not to leave, so I didn't want to leave. It was fun."
After the Cards' 9-0 win punched their ticket to the World Series, Kelly said he'd been doing it all postseason. Van Slyke was the first opponent to notice.
"After every national anthem, I usually stand there and wait for the other team to leave," Kelly said. "It's something that I like doing, and I guess I feel like I get a little grin out of that. But I guess [Van Slyke] caught onto it, and he just started standing there. And so I just started standing there and didn't want to move my ground until they did, so it was fun."
Both sides claimed victory after Major League Baseball's first postseason staring contest -- Van Slyke because Kelly was the first to smile, and Kelly because Van Slyke was the first to leave his post.
They finally scattered after home-plate umpire Greg Gibson had enough, and with a hint of a smile on his own face, emphatically urged both to get the heck out of the way so the big game could begin.
"He said, 'Y'all go back at the same time! Just go back!'" Wacha said with a laugh.
The memorable staredown was both players' only appearance on Friday. Van Slyke was on the Dodgers' bench (and appeared just once in the series, as a defensive replacement in Game 1), while Kelly had just pitched Game 5 of the series in Los Angeles two days earlier.
It was a strange start to the biggest game of Wacha's life, but he enjoyed it.
"It honestly, I think, calmed me down a little bit," Wacha said. "It gave me a little chuckle out there on the mound. I think I might have been a little too nervous going out there, but I saw the standoff going on and it kind of loosened me up a little bit."