Derry’s Welch feels right at home with Silver Knights

Telegraph photo by TOM KING Former Pinkerton Academy standout George Welch has felt very comfortable this summer in a Silver Knights uniform as the team's potential closer.

NASHUA – Kyle Jackson had no idea.

No, not until the Nashua Silver Knights second home game did the team’s pitching coach realize that Knights reliever George Welch was a prize pupil of his father, Mike Jackson, who has had great success working with arms over the years as a pitching guru.

“He came up to me, we were talking about trying to get a slider,” Jackson said of Welch., a former Pinkerton Academy standout who pitched as a freshman this past spring with St. Joseph’s College of Maine. “His fastball command’s good, but we were trying to come up with an off-speed pitch for him.

“So he was telling me this story of how he became a pitcher. He was playing (at Pinkerton) and the coach (Steve Campo) told him he should pitch and ‘You need to see a pitching coach guy.’ So he went to may Dad.”

Amazing. And Welch became an Astros’ standout on the mound, and right now has been superb out of the bullpen for the Silver Knights, mainly as a late inning reliever/potential closer.

And at St. Joseph’s this past spring, Welch was brought along slowly, recovering from a flexor tendon strain, as he made seven appearances out of the bullpen for St. Joseph’s, striking out 18 in 12 innings, going 0-0, 3.00 as a freshman.

Welch asked Jackson if his father came to the games and he pointed right up to the stands, and Mike Jackson came down and talked to his star pupil. “He talks to my Dad all the time,” Jackson said. “I just never knew.”

He knows now, as Welch’s stats at the beginning of the week showed a pretty good student, as he had struck out 27 in 14 innings of work as a reliever, with a 0.64 ERA.

“It’s been really good,” Welch said of his Silver Knights experience so far. “Getting to play with guys, I haven’t played on a level like this before. The coaching’s very good. And we’re all meshed together, and we’re winning (more than earlier).”

Ironically, Welch was asked late last summer to join the North Shore Navigators after pitching for the Derry Legion team, but he wanted to give his arm a break. Otherwise, the Navs may have held his right’s and he’d be at Fraser Field in Lynn, Mass.rather than at Holman.

“I like it here a lot better, definitely,” he said.

But for this summer, Welch told the St. Joe’s coaches this spring that he wanted to play locally and at the highest level he could, so Jackson and Neverett got the word and were interested. And Welch loved pitching at Holman Stadium when he was wearng a Pinkerton uniform, and likes it even better as a member of the home team.

“Basically it’s like a dream to play here, and it’s still my dream,” Welch said. “To say Holman is my home field is amazing; it’s by far the best stadium in the Futures League.

“And honestly it’s probably one of the best fields I’ve played on in general. This stadium is looking so nice, so professional. The grounds crew does a great job. … Everything is run perfectly well around here.”

Welch has enjoyed the closer role.

“When I come in, we’re tied or we’re winning, and my team having the trust in me to come in in that situation makes me feel a lot better,” Welch said. “And Coach going along with it, choosing me. Makes me a lot more confident.”

Confidence is something Welch keeps reminding himself to have, and pitching at Holman in front of larger crowds than he saw in college helps that.

“It definitely makes me feel good, having my team, the fans, cheering me on, just gives me a lot of confidence,” he said. “I strive for that.

“I don’t go in 100 percent confident. I was confident (when the season started) but nervous. But having the whole team have my back, the fans cheering me on, makes me feel a lot more comfortable on the mound.”

Welch feels his fastball has been overpowering, as he’s gotten a lot of swings and misses. He’ll throw whatever works.

“I’m still trying to figure out how they don’t hit his fastball,” Jackson said. “It’s about 86 (miles per hour), but I think he’s just so deceptive with his fastball. His mechanics, he just hides the ball very well. And it jumps on them.

“He’s just been establishing his fastball, both in and out, and now it’s just trying to get that secondary pitch for him.”

Right now that may be a slider, and Welch will stick with it if it works.

He’s been playing baseball since his youth days, and strives for perfection thanks to his father George’s influence.

“He asked, ‘Do you want to be a great baseball player, or do you want to be a good baseball player,'” Welch said. “Obviously, I want to be a great baseball player, I want to be the best I can be.”

Welch avoided AAU ball, but his father gave him a lot of opportunities to get better by seeing pitching coaches for private instruction. Hence, hello, Mike Jackson.

“When I was at Pinkerton I was a first baseman, but Coach Campo said, ‘Do you want to play on varsity? I need you to be a pitcher because we have no lefty pitchers. That’s when I want to Mike Jackson, started working with him.

“It made me a lot better. I gained a lot of velocity and consistency with my off-speed.”

Welch would love to someday be the ace of the Monks staff up in Maine, but he’ll close if he’s asked to do it.

And he’d love to play after college. “I’ll try my hardest,” the business major said. “We’ll see where (baseball) takes me, though.”

Meanwhile, Jackson sees his father every day at work, but still hasn’t asked him about Welch.

“Nah, when we’re at work we never talk about baseball,” he said. “Too much other stuff to worry about.”

But right now, neither seems worried about George Welch, nor should they be. He is the latest Mike Jackson/Kyle Jackson success story.

“It’s been a great opportunity,” Welch said, “and has made me a lot better.”