In preparing for Thursday night's game, Chattanooga Lookouts manager Pat Kelly took a quick glance ahead at the next opponent's roster.
It was the one presenting an emotional connection. The franchise he spent three memorable seasons managing.
"This will be different, for sure," Kelly, the former Blue Wahoos manager, said with a laugh.
While he has no relationship with any current Pensacola players or coaches, Kelly and his pitching coach Danny Darwin recognize how fate presents a unique dynamic.
After last year's swap of affiliations, 13 former Lookouts' players now in Pensacola will reconnect Saturday against Chattanooga to begin a five-game road series. Kelly and Darwin will manage against the franchise they once celebrated success with.
On Sept. 8, 2017, Kelly and Darwin were doused with champagne at Blue Wahoos Stadium after the Cincinnati Reds former Double-A affiliate won a Southern League co-championship.
The team sharing the title in that hurricane-shortened postseason? The Lookouts, then the Minnesota Twins affiliate.
"I think for both Danny and myself, it will be a strange feeling," said Kelly about the upcoming series at Chattanooga's AT&T Stadium. "I think we've been in the game long enough, been traded and fired enough, that we've done this before. But it's definitely different.
"We had a great seven-year run (as Reds affiliate) in Pensacola and enjoyed every minute of it. Especially the three years I was there. And now it's the Twins turn to enjoy Pensacola and hopefully we can come into Chattanooga and have some fun."
Adding to the scenario, Kelly managed the Chattanooga Lookouts 25 years ago (1993-94) when they were a Reds affiliate during a 21-year period.
After being named the third manager in Blue Wahoos franchise history in December 2014, Kelly steered the ballclub to its greatest run of success. The Blue Wahoos reached the playoffs each year, culminating in 2017 with a trophy and championship rings.
During those three seasons, he developed lasting friendships and enjoyed a stadium providing proximity to connect with fans.
"It was just fun to come to the ballpark every day," said Kelly, 63, a Santa Maria, Calif. native. "It was a great facility, a great city, and the fans who came to the ballpark made it all worthwhile.
"They were very supportive. I made a lot of friends."
Entering the weekend series against the South Division-leading Blue Wahoos, Kelly sees it as a gauge for his North Division team.
"Just glancing at the roster, some of the names are familiar," Kelly said. "I know just following baseball, they have a lot of the top prospects for the Twins. And obviously, looking at the standings, they are off to a great start. So I think it is going to be a really good challenge for us.
The Lookouts had a sluggish start, losing seven of eight games beginning in mid-April. They have since won the past two series, taking four of five games each time.
"We got off to a really bad start with some young players. But we really hit our stride the last couple weeks. I am kinda looking forward to (facing Blue Wahoos), because I think it's a great challenge for our young kids, just to see how far we have advanced in this first month and a half.
"We came into the year with a lot of questions with the pitching staff. So we felt like it was basically trying to get everyone's feet wet and see how we did. We split our first two series, which I felt we were fortunate to do.
"Then Mississippi came in and knocked our socks off… they beat us four of five. I think it was eye opening for our players."
The Lookouts were tied as of Thursday with the Tennessee Smokies for the best team batting average (.255) in the Southern League. Several of their batters among the league's top 50 - Jose Siri, T.J. Friedl, Gavin LaValley - were in Pensacola last season.
"We are going to try to prove the opposite of what we did in Pensacola… that you can win with offense and give up a lot of runs," said Kelly, jokingly. "But this is a much better park to hit in (Chattanooga) from an offensive standpoint.
"I think our pitching is starting to settle down. Having Danny working with those guys, they get better every start and the bullpen is starting to solidify a little bit."
After seeing so many of the players he managed reach the major leagues in recent seasons, Kelly returned last year himself as a bench coach for the Reds. He was in the dugout with then-interim manager Jim Riggleman, the Blue Wahoos manager in their inaugural 2012 season.
Both were elevated after the Reds opted to fire Bryan Price just 18 games into the 2018 season. Riggleman is now bench coach for the New York Mets. After the Reds chose David Bell as new manager and he hired his staff, Kelly opted for a Double-A return in the Reds organization to help players advance.
"(Last year) was fantastic for me," Kelly said. "It was a great experience to be exposed to the big leagues and get exposed with players who had played for me. You are seeing through their struggles. And to work for Jim Riggleman was fantastic.
"What a terrific man, I love the way he runs a ballgame. He is always two steps ahead of the other manager. It was very educational for me… being able to sit next to a guy who I felt like was one step ahead of me a lot of times.
"So I felt like I got a lot out of it."
He's hoping for the same in a new situation this year.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.