Family feud: The Welsh family takes to the field as rivals
They have always come together through baseball, but now they’ll be stepping onto the field on opposing sides of the West Orange/Windermere rivalry.
| 11:06 a.m. February 19, 2020
When Evan Welsh took to the mound during Windermere High School baseball’s fall ball game against West Orange last year, things were different — much different.
For the junior righty, he was just starting his first year with the varsity team, but that wasn’t the only thing that stood out during this game.
Standing 90 feet away at third base was Jay Welsh — West Orange High’s first-year head coach, and Evan Welsh’s dad. Meanwhile, over in the box at first base, Evan’s older brother, Ryan Welsh — the Warriors’ pitching coach — watched the game.
So there Evan Welsh was, pitching against his dad’s team — a program he was familiar with — at a school that he could be attending had it not been for the creation of Windermere High School.
“It was surprisingly normal to an extent, because I’ve been at this field forever and we do bullpen on this mound, and just hearing both of their voices was nothing new,” Evan Welsh said. “Pitching, I felt comfortable and I felt hungry to get those guys out — to get his team out — more so than usual.”
Up in the stands sat the rest of the Welsh clan, including Evan Welsh’s mother, Chris Ann Welsh, and sister, Erin Welsh. The two also FaceTimed in the oldest Welsh daughter, Megan Welsh — who currently is studying at the University of Florida.
But what’s it like for Chris Ann Welsh to watch a game and know that she has loved ones on both sides of the field?
“To tell you the truth, with Evan being my fourth child and we have been doing travel sports forever … it’s kind of more fun to watch him now,” Chris Ann Welsh said. “I think if it was 15 years ago it might have been a little different, but it’s a fun rivalry. Of course you want them both to do well — it’s just hard when they’re playing against each other, so I’ll cheer for my son, of course … because it’s all about the kids, really.”
The history of baseball in the Welsh family starts with Jay Welsh, who’s been a part of the game for quite a while.
Through the years, he’s served varying positions at schools like Lake Nona, Ocoee and Celebration, before eventually becoming the pitching coach over at Lake-Sumter State College.
With baseball being so prominent in the Welsh household, it’s no surprise the sport caught on with Evan and Ryan Welsh — though there were some concerns on Jay Welsh’s part that Evan could be burnt out with all the baseball he had played at such a young age.
“By the age of 6, he had already been to 100 travel-ball tournaments following his brother,” Jay Welsh said. “I felt like maybe he might be a little bit soured on baseball, but what had happened with Evan is, since he grew up in a baseball household, he began to set himself apart because he had a higher baseball IQ than a lot of kids and that led to some early success.”
Along their baseball journeys, both Evan and Ryan Welsh heard the same little phrases that their dad would say to help them with their struggles.
At the plate, Jay Welsh would tell them to “squish the bug” — referring to when a hitter pivots their back foot during a swing — while on the mound he would say, “pound the zone and challenge hitters.” The words of advice always were helpful, Evan Welsh said.
“I remember especially for one of my starts I was in the bullpen kind of throwing erratic and missing my spots,” Evan Welsh said. “And then my dad came over and calmed me down and gave me some pointers like, ‘Stay in sync,’ and, ‘Follow through and finish on your pitches.’”
When Jay Welsh took the West Orange High job, it wasn’t exactly an easy decision.
It was a job that made sense, but there was a possible downside for Jay Welsh.
“The hardest part was considering that he might not come over and what I might miss in terms of his baseball career,” Jay Welsh said. “But ultimately, I felt like I’d be able to do both — continue to train him, continue to work with him and see him when I can see him.”
Over the last two seasons, Evan Welsh established himself on the junior varsity team while developing friendships at Windermere High. Long story short, he was comfortable and didn’t want to leave Windermere.
While Evan Welsh stayed at Windermere, Ryan Welsh made the decision to go a different route with the game by joining his dad on the West Orange staff.
“I had one year left of eligibility when I left my last school — I’m at UCF now — and I was like, ‘OK, I can try to walk on and continue my career,’ but I just decided I might as well hang it up and coach with my pops,” Ryan Welsh said.
With Jay and Ryan Welsh now in place at West Orange and Evan Welsh looking to play a reliever role at Windermere, things are in place to make the first West Orange/Windermere game — which takes place Friday, March 27, at WOHS — one to remember for the Welsh household.
“That’s going to be fun,” Ryan Welsh said. “I think West Orange and Olympia was always the biggest rivalry, but now that Windermere has come along, I think the biggest rivalry is West Orange and Windermere.”