Catching Up With Johnny Welch (Worcester Tornadoes)

Johnny Welch cranked two home runs against Quebec on Tuesday afternoon, which helped Worcester earn their ninth win of the season! (Photo Credit: Matt Noonan)

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.”

Johnny Welch celebrates one of his two home runs on Tuesday with Jerod Edmonson! (Photo Credit: Matt Noonan)

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.”

Worcester’s Welch Off To A Fast Start

Worcester’s Johnny Welch is off to a fast start with his second CanAm League Indy baseball team! (Photo Credit: Flickr)

By Matt Noonan 

The first few weeks of the Worcester Tornadoes season is officially in the books.

The local independent baseball squad concluded its most recent six-game home stand with three wins and three losses. Yet, despite a few excruciating contests against Newark and New Jersey, fans were able to enjoy a few exciting home runs on Sunday afternoon by the former Boston Herald All-Scholastic Johnny Welch.

Welch, who is in his first season with the Tornadoes, has appeared in 14 games thus far and has recorded 12 runs, 17 hits, four doubles, four home runs and nine RBIs. He’s also tallied one stolen base and 13 strikeouts, too.

Last season, Welch joined the CanAm League with the Pittsfield Colonials, who’re no longer in existence, and appeared in 69 games. He experienced one of his better seasons at the dish, as he registered 15 home runs, 45 RBIs and seven stolen bases.

Welch’s best season in a Minor League setting was with the Florence Freedom in 2010, a member of the Frontier League, where finished the year with 93 hits, 13 doubles, one triple, 14 home runs and 46 RBIs.

Mass Indy Baseball Player Profile: Chris Torres (Worcester Tornadoes)

By Matt Noonan 

WORCESTER, MA – Worcester Tornadoes catcher Chris Torres loves the game of baseball.

The 29-year-old Florida native, who was drafted by the Detroit Tigers, (2005) and Pittsburgh Pirates (2001) in the MLB Amateur Draft, is focused on doing whatever it takes to earn a spot on a big league roster.

Torres has appeared in six games this season and has recorded five hits, two home runs, and three RBIs. He’s hopeful that he’ll play in a majority of games this season, too, but again, is just focused on improving every single day.

Here is our conversation with the veteran catcher on the season thus far.

For the third consecutive year you’re playing for a Massachusetts independent baseball team. How’s it feel to be back in the Bay State, and how’s the season going thus far?

“It feels good. It’s a good organization; they’re doing things right, everything’s going in the right direction, and [it’s] a great group of guys. I couldn’t ask for a better position to be in, [but hopefully I’ll] get more playing time and I think it’ll work out itself as I keep doing better.”

This past Wednesday against Newark, you hit a walk-off home run to conclude a suspended contest. What’d you see on that particular pitch?

“I saw a 91 mph fastball and I said, ‘I’m going to hit it because I like them’ and it happened to go out [of the ballpark]. It’s just hard work pays off.”

From a veteran perspective, how have you helped some of the younger players progress over these past few weeks?

“We’ve got a young guy named J.B. Brown, a good guy and good hitter. [I’m helping him] work on his swings just a little bit, and just how he relates to the other guys. [These young guys] come out of college or right out of pro ball, and you figure out that we’re all in this together and there’s no need for [showboating]. Then you’ve got Tony Patane, who’s a great dude, great kid, working hard. I think [these young guys] just kind of latch to us [veterans], hang out and they learn stuff. They’re all good kids, good guys.”

What’s your relationship like with manager Chip Plante? How has he helped you or the team thus far?

“Chip’s awesome. Chip is a good manager. He gets into it just like he’s a player and I like that. He’s got a fire in him, he wants to win, he’s out there to win, he gets fired up, and I love when he gets fired up [because] we’re all here to win. At the end of the day, we all want to get a championship here in Worcester, and get some rings.”

Are there any parallels between this team and the Pittsfield Colonials?

“That was a special team, [and] it was a great group of guys. It’s good because the same chemistry is here with the Tornadoes, and we’ve just got to put that product that we believe in on the field. It’s going to come [because] I’ve never seen a team that started out in the beginning of the year blowing people up and ending the year blowing people up in the World Series. It’s usually that team that gets hot at the right time, so I think we’re going to figure it out, and we’re going to be a dangerous team.”

Excluding some of the rookies and younger players, which you mentioned above, who’re some other players to watch as the season progresses?

Johnny Welch, who’s about to heat up. You’ve got Brandon Kelliher; he’s going to heat it up. Obviously, Nick Salotti, who started off a little slow, but that homer on Thursday is going to get him going. Alex Trezza, he always hits .300 and 15 homers [per season], and you can write it down because it’s going to happen, so once guys figure it out, we’re going to be rolling.”

What’s an average game day like for an independent baseball player? What’re things you do to prepare yourself for a game?

“Wake up at about 1PM, get some lunch, come to the field, bust out really hard work, we work hard, and we’re here from 2PM to 11PM, and people don’t realize that it’s not like we’re here for [a short period of time]. We take ground balls, I hit in the cage, then we hit again, we do our routine, and we shower, then we do our routine again, and we get ready for the game and then it’s an intense battle for two-to-three hours, even more sometimes, and then we wake up and do it again the next day, so it’s pretty intense.”

What’s it like playing with Jose Canseco? How has his MLB experiences helped you as a player?

“He’s got a lot of knowledge, and he gets a bad rap. Seeing him, hanging out with him every day, and listening to him, he’s like a gentle giant. He comes up; he talks to us about things and things he’s been through. He buys us [food], so he’s a really good guy, and he’s been helping. We’d like to see him hit a little bit more, but whatever he does, he’s good, he’s good [company].”

I have to ask you, what’s the deal with this new look? Are we ever going to see the Chris Torres from Pittsfield with a shaved head or Mohawk?

“I don’t know. We’re going to keep this [look] going because we’re hitting, but if the team doesn’t or if I feel like we need something to bring us together like we had the Mohawks in Pittsfield then we’re going to do it. Whatever it takes to bring us together to win, but yeah, I grew it out at home in Florida.”

Finally, what is the future for Chris Torres?

“Obviously, everyone on this field is playing to get back to organized ball in the big leagues, and if they’re telling you something else they’re lying, and that’s why I work hard and that’s why they all work hard because there’s still that in the back of my mind that is [my dream] kind of out of the loop, probably, but you never know [and] that’s why you put on a baseball uniform. [Excluding playing in the majors], I want to be around the game, and I either want to coach, work in the front office or [do] player development stuff or something. I’ll be around the game because I love it and can’t get away from it.”