Zach Welz spent three days in June hoping to be selected during the Major League Baseball draft, but it never happened.
Most players would have given up and started looking for a regular job. But the outfielder kept practicing, and a big break came July 31. Kevin Ham, the Los Angeles Angels’ Midwest scouting director, signed him to a free-agent contract, and he was assigned to the rookie Arizona League.
“My work ethic is the reason I’ve made it this far,” Welz, 23, told The Union in Grass Valley. “I’m always working hard, and trying to get guys to work with me before and after practice. I’ve always had the desire to be as good as I can be.”
Welz, a three-year varsity starter at Bear River High School, played two seasons at Solano College before transferring to Texas Southern. As a senior, the center fielder started 48 of 50 games, batted leadoff and hit .281 with a .390 on-base percentage. He also had 22 stolen bases, 28 RBIs and a team-high five homers. The Tigers won the Southwestern Athletic Conference tournament, and Welz was named the tournament MVP.
After being bypassed in the draft, Welz attended tryouts in Houston with the Milwaukee Brewers, Atlanta Braves and Tampa Bay Rays. He didn’t hear back from any of them, so he resigned himself to catching on with an independent team.
He told Texas Southern trainer Antonio Bassett about his plans to return to California, but Bassett had a better idea.
“He said, ‘No man. You can’t give up like that. Come work with me for a while and see if anything pops up,’” Welz told tsusports.com.
On his first day working with Bassett, they met former major-league infielder Alex Cintron, who operates a baseball program in the Houston area.
Cintron, who batted .275 in nine seasons in the majors, watched Welz work out, liked his tools and mental makeup, and invited him to a private tryout at the end of July.
“So, for three weeks, I trained every day with Antonio to work on my speed, core and explosiveness,” Welz told tsusports.com. “Those were some of the hardest workouts I’ve ever been through. But he dropped my 60-yard time by 0.14 seconds, which is big.
“On the day of the tryout, I ran my fastest 60-yard dash ever at 6.40 seconds. And I threw 94 mph from the outfield. I took two rounds of batting practice, and the Angels signed me right on the spot. They told me I had the tools to do lots of great things at the professional level.”
Entering the weekend, Welz had played five games for the Arizona League Angels, going 4 for 19 (.211). But he capitalized on his RBI opportunities, driving in six runs.
▪ Brooklyn (N.Y.) Cyclones right-hander Alex Palsha (Sacramento State) pitched a perfect eighth inning for the South in Tuesday’s New York-Penn League All-Star Game, but the North won 4-2.
▪ Chatham (Mass.) Anglers outfielder Aaron Knapp (Granite Bay) was named to the Cape Cod League All-Star East team.
▪ The A’s roster for the Area Code Games in Long Beach on Aug. 4-9 included right-handers Jack Cosca (Jesuit), Matt Manning (Sheldon), Radd Thomas (Placer) and Austin Roberts (River City), first baseman Dylan Carlson (Elk Grove) and shortstop Ryan Kreidler (Davis), who was named All-Area Code honorable mention.
▪ Carlson played in the Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field in Chicago on Aug. 15, and Manning pitched for the West in the Perfect Game All-American Classic in San Diego on Aug. 16.
Mark McDermott is a freelance writer specializing in Sacramento-area baseball. Contact him at email@example.com.