Mottram and Welch are hitting it off and happy to be home
It was only fitting that Billy Mottram and Johnny Welch were traded in a package deal to the Pittsfield Colonials during the offseason. Since sharing the diamond for the first time just three years ago, the two local players have become almost inseparable, from rooming together during the season to training together when it ends.
Now, as they near the end of their first season playing independent ball in the Can-Am League, the duo could not be happier in their new digs.
For one, they get to spend their days playing the game they love. And it’s their job.
“This has always been the dream,’’ said Mottram, a 26-year-old Haverhill High graduate.
“It’s amazing to be able to show up every day and play baseball for a living. It’s something that allows you to escape anything that’s going wrong in the world. This is really the best job ever.’’
This season has been a homecoming of sorts for Mottram and Welch, a 27-year-old Medford native. They are back in the Bay State, calling historic Wahconah Park home, after suiting up three seasons with the Florence (Ky.) Freedom in the Frontier League.
“I had played against Johnny a few times before we met in Florence, but we never really spoke to each other,’’ said Mottram, a 6-foot, 195-pound left fielder who played at Saint Anselm College. A 6-foot-3, 215-pound third baseman, Welch also played Division 2 ball in the Northeast, at Dowling College.
“Being from the same area made being friends a rather easy transition, especially when we’re out there playing in the Midwest together.’’
According to Welch, the rapport developed rather quickly.
“We really clicked really well with one another,’’ said Welch.
“Being able to play side by side with Billy has been a great way to spend the past four seasons. He’s a good guy to play with and it was awesome that the pair of us could get traded together to Pittsfield. It was a really good deal for both of us.’’
The Colonials (48-38 overall, 23-17 second half) have been elated with the way the deal has worked out, too.
“I thought a ton of these two guys when we acquired them before this season,’’ said Colonials manager Jamie Keefe, a Rochester, N.H. native who once managed both Mottram and Welch in Florence, Ky.
“I knew the experience they could bring to this club would pay off for the team. They are both very upbeat players and they deal with the wear and tear of the season very well. I knew that they would fit right in with this team and contribute.’’
Through 81 games, the lefthanded-swinging Mottram was hitting .319 with 11 home runs and 57 RBIs, the second-highest RBI total on the team. His prowess at the plate earned him a nod as Rawlings Can-Am League Batter of the Month in June, when he hit .375 with 26 RBIs.
Welch has cleaned up at the plate as well. In 59 games, the right-handed hitter boasted a .299 average with 12 homers. Producing at the plate is nothing new for Welch. He entered the season with a .283 career average in four seasons, including one year with the North Shore Spirit in Lynn.
Mottram was originally drafted by the Cubs in the 36th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, but was released after one season.
A week later, Mottram received a call out of the blue from the Florence front office, asking if he’d be interested in playing for the Freedom. The choice was simple.
Welch was not drafted following a standout career at Saint Anselm, where he was a four-year starter and captain.
“It’s been unbelievable with the way things have played out,’’ said Welch. “I really didn’t know anything about the independent circuit when I was out of school. Then I was able to sign with the North Shore Spirit in the Can-Am League and from there I eventually found my way down to Florence. I have been very pleased with how things have worked out.’’
During the offseason, both men work as hitting instructors; Welch at Line Drive in Malden, and Mottram in Salem, N.H. They each also make a point to take batting practice with each other in the off-season.
“I didn’t know much about Pittsfield before I came up this way, even though I’m from the state,’’ said Welch.
“But the guys on the team are incredible. And whether we’re playing in front of 5,000 people, or just a hundred, everyone plays hard and that’s all that matters.’’