By David Fong
TROY — When Ty Welker became the winningest coach in Troy High School baseball history last week, he could barely keep up with the congratulations he received from everyone with whom he’s come into contact during his career.
He received text messages. And Tweets. And emails.
One thing, however — quite possibly the one thing that would have meant the most to him — was missing.
“When I got my first coaching job, Fred (McMullen) was the first person to call me,” Welker said. “When I got the Troy coaching job, Fred was the first person to call me. I know he would have been the first person to call me for this, too. But I do know he was there with me.”
Last week, Welker picked up his 201st win as Troy baseball coach, breaking the record set by his friend and mentor, Fred McMullen. The legendary former Troy coach passed away in February 2006, a little more than a month before Welker coached his first varsity game at Troy.
Welker said even being mentioned in the same breath as the man who meant so much to his coaching career is an honor.
“Fred is the reason I’m a coach,” Welker said. “He gave me my first chance when I was in college. He called me and asked me if I would help coach his son’s Teener league team that summer. Of course I did because I loved being around Fred.”
It was a relationship that extended back to Welker’s own playing days at Troy High School. After being repeatedly cut from McMullen’s varsity teams, Welker got his chance to play for McMullen’s Trojans his senior year in 1989.
“I got cut my sophomore and junior years, but I asked him if I could just keep the book for the team my senior year,” Welker said. “I didn’t want to get in the way, and I wasn’t very good, but I just wanted to be a part of the team. Fred told me he wanted me to try out.
“But then Fred told me he wanted me to try out for the team. I didn’t think I would make it, but he put me on the team. I actually had plans to go on spring break with a couple of my buddies that I had to cancel because I didn’t think I was going to be on the team. I didn’t play a whole lot — I only got 16 at-bats the entire season — but I didn’t care. I was just happy to be on the team. Fred allowed me to be a part of his program.”
Welker would go on to graduate from Bowling Green State University before returning to teach at Troy. He would also serve as a junior varsity and assistant coach for the Trojans before taking his first varsity head coaching job at rival Piqua. He would return home in 2006, becoming Troy’s varsity coach.
His teams have been a model of consistency, averaging more than 16 wins per season, making district and regional tournament apperances and capturing Greater Western Ohio Conferene American North Division championships in 2012 and 2014.
“This isn’t my record; this is a program record,” Welker said. “I’ve been so lucky with all the great players and assistant coaches I’ve had over the years. My family — my wife Amy, our daughters Jessie and Maggie and our son Luke — have just been incredible supporting me all these years. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how much support I’ve gotten from the administration here in Troy, as well.”
Long-time assistant coach Heath Murray — who also played alongside Welker at Troy — said he couldn’t be happier for his friend and fellow coach.
“I think it’s awesome,” Murray said. “I know it means the world to him. I know it’s been his dream his entire life to be the Troy head baseball coach. To be able to do that, I know is a big deal to him, even if he would never say it. I couldn’t be happier for him because I know how much time he puts in all year, with the off-season conditioning and the fundraisers. It’s a lot more than what people see during the season. I didn’t know what he makes — or what any baseball coach makes — but I bet if you broke it down, it’s about a dime per hour.
“And I think it’s great that it if someone was going to pass Fred, it was going to be a Troy guy who understands Fred’s legacy and what he meant to this program and the history of Troy baseball. I couldn’t be happier for Ty. He’s done a great job with the kids and with this program.”
Welker said he hopes to remain a part of the program as head coach for years to come.
“I plan to be around for a few more years,” he said. “My son is in second grade, and it’s been a dream of mine to coach him someday, if that’s what he wants to do.”
Contact David Fong at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @thefong