Welsh had to resign as head coach at Celebration High this spring after a controversy over transfer players, though the transfers were cleared by both the FHSAA and the school district.
Jay Welsh likes his job as head coach of the Winter Garden Squeeze.
Welsh, in his second year as the manager for the Squeeze after previously coaching their Futures League counterpart — the Tangelos — will be the first to say as much.
“This is the highlight of my year,” Welsh said a few hours before Winter Garden hosted Leesburg in its home opener June 2. “I enjoy the summer coaching more than the high school (coaching) — more than just about anything I do.”
Given how the past few months have gone for Welsh, also a teacher for Florida Virtual School, it would be hard not to take him at his word.
The Squeeze, after all, were not the only team Welsh took over in 2016. Before last summer, he also made his debut as head coach at Celebration High School in Osceola County. There, he hoped to take a program that had won just nine games — total — in 2014 and 2015 and to establish a new culture.
Welsh was successful, too. The Storm more than doubled their win-total from 2015 to 2016, going 12-11 in their first season under their new staff. This spring, things got even better, as Celebration raced out to an 11-4 start.
But the euphoria was short-lived, as a part of that success was attributed to an influx of four transfers who won starting jobs, including a UCF signee.
Reports suggest a group of parents within the team were perturbed at the lack of playing time for some returning players and also doubted whether the newcomers actually lived within Celebration’s district. Even when the FHSAA and the School District of Osceola County cleared the transfers as legitimate, the turmoil didn’t die down.
So, to preserve the positive momentum he had worked to create, Welsh stepped down.
“It was a bittersweet down there (at Celebration),” Welsh said. “We did turn that program around. But, when there’s an element of newness in a town that has never experienced some success in baseball, you’re going to ruffle some feathers. We did it the right way, and the FHSAA and the (school) district — they all agreed.”
Welsh watched from the sidelines as the Storm won their first district title and played in the postseason for the first time. Celebration went 21-8 this spring.
For Welsh, it has been helpful to transition to working on the Squeeze. As for coaching again at the high-school level, he said he is uncertain whether he pursues it immediately.
“A year off might be good, but I’m always intrigued by the challenge,” he said.
For the next two months, at least, he’ll be enjoying his favorite time of the year.
“I enjoy being a part of their lives,” Welsh said of the Squeeze players. “I love being a part of their baseball story.”
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].