By Matt Noonan
WORCESTER, MA – Against the Quebec Capitales on Tuesday afternoon, Worcester’s Johnny Welch recorded two hits, two home runs and three RBIs, which lifted the Tornadoes to their ninth win of the season.
“We had to win [on Tuesday afternoon],” said Welch. “We’ve all got to start hitting, [and I think] we’re all starting to figure it out, but once we get rolling I think we’ll be alright.”
Welch has been the spark the Tornadoes have needed this season. The Medford native has recorded 25 hits, four doubles, seven home runs and 15 RBIs, and certainly hasn’t disappointed.
Noontime Sports caught up with the former Boston Herald All-Scholastic on Tuesday to talk about the season thus far, as well as his high school and college playing days.
On playing at Malden Catholic: “Just making varsity [was one of my fondest memories]. It was huge. That first year we had a great team, but just having the older guys taking me under their wing was a big thing for me.”
On his junior and senior year mentality with the Lancers: “My senior year, I was a captain, but the other years I knew I was going to hit in the middle of the lineup, so I had to do well. We had a great team, and I just happened to get good hits, I guess.”
On not being recruited to play college baseball: “I really didn’t get recruited [to play] anywhere, but [Saint Anselm College] was there, and coach [Ken Harring] at the time saw me, and he told me I could play every day up there as long as I had the grades, and I got in and played.”
On majoring in criminal justice: “Going [to St. A’s] I knew the school was tough, but just didn’t know what I wanted to do with my major, and I happened to take some courses and I fell in love with it, [and] just rode it out.”
On dealing with injuries at St. A’s: “I missed my junior year, but every other year during the offseason, I seemed to have [various] surgeries, but I kept going back and playing. In the offseason it was rough, but in the season I played, so I’ve had a bunch, but they seem to be holding off right now. I had [offseason surgery on] my shoulder, elbow, wrist, I’ve had a bunch.”
On not being drafted in high school or college: “The whole thing [going to St. A’s] was it was a wood bat conference, so I knew I was going to play every day, and hopefully I had numbers for someone to give me a shot. My senior year, I had a great year and I didn’t know if I was going to be picked up or not, and I didn’t, so I happened to try out for [an independent baseball team] and someone saw me. I really didn’t talk to anybody [about the MLB draft]. In high school, I didn’t think much of it. I was a little shorter, didn’t really run as well, so I didn’t think anything of it. In college, we had a guy drafted the year before [I arrived], so I thought maybe I might get a shot, but it didn’t work out.”
On his first year playing Independent Baseball: “I really didn’t know too much about Indy ball. I had a buddy who played, and I knew he was pretty legit, so when I got to Brockton I knew it was the real deal. Pitching is better, guys are older and know what they’re doing, and then I got released and North Shore picked me up and I learned a lot from those guys [on the Spirit]. They helped me out a ton.”
On his success in the Frontier League: “I got to play every day. My manager told me, ‘you’re going to play every day, so it is what it is, figure it out.’ So by seeing pitches and being there and kind of getting that chance [was what helped me succeed with the Florence Freedom]. I finally got the opportunity to play every day, and it paid off.”
On playing with the Pittsfield Colonials: “I knew a few of the guys, and we had an awesome team last season. I actually liked playing [at Wahconah Park]. I loved hitting there, [and] the atmosphere was a little different [compared to Worcester], but I loved playing there and hitting there, too.”
On being signed by the Tornadoes: “It was huge. When we went into the draft, [due to the Colonials folding] I didn’t know what was going to happen with the whole team, they wanted to keep us together, but it didn’t work out. I’m glad Worcester picked me up, [and] I knew I was going to play every day, so I just wanted to get that opportunity again.”
On his success with the Tornadoes thus far: “I’m not really sure. [On Monday] I struggled, the day before I struggled, [but on Tuesday afternoon] I just told myself to see the ball and try to hit it. And finally, I actually made some contact, got some balls out [of the park]. I’m just trying to relax, and not trying to do too much [at the plate].”
On his pre-game ritual: “I get ready early, put some red hot on, and try to get out [to the field] early and stretch.”
On what songs gets him pumped for games: “I love techno, [some] deadmau5, [and] some Tiesto to get me fired up.”
On being able to play baseball in Massachusetts: “It’s great, especially for my family. When I was out in Kentucky it was tough for them to get out there, but now if people want to come see me they can, [so] it’s good to be near home, it makes you feel safer.”