Just because it's the off-season in Australia doesn't mean the ABL's stars aren't working hard to improve their games. Some of your favorite players are available for questions - what do you want to know?
Stefan Welch is a first basemen in the New York Mets organization. He is having a strong offensive season for the club's A Advanced team in St. Lucie, Florida. Stef represented Australia twice in 2009, at the World Baseball Classic and Baseball World Cup.
How would you sum up your season?
I had a great time this year. We had a great bunch of guys and a coaching staff which made it fun to turn up to the park every day, and especially to win our Division and make it to the championships was pretty special. Personally, I wish I was a bit more consistent throughout the year and would have liked to have finished up stronger, but overall I'm pretty happy with the season and it's definitely a lot more fun when your winning!!
How do you maintain such a great physique? Are you looking forward to the Australian summer with family and friends?
- From Ben Howell
Haha how are ya Benny? Miss ya mate.
I keep my skinny physique by watching the carbs and calories!! Haha, I wish I could put on weight. I'm tired of being a string-bean, but I eat heaps and don't put on a kilogram, so just hoping my metabolism will change one day.
I can't wait to get home and spend the summer with my family and friends. I'm lucky to have great mates and I always have a blast catching up with them and have a great time with my family, so I'm definitely looking forward to a great, relaxing summer!!
Happy birthday [12 August 1988]! What did you do to celebrate? Is it difficult to be away from your friends and family back in Adelaide when it's your birthday, or are you used to it by now?
I didn't do too much for the birthday. We had a game, so I just went out for dinner after the game and then had some drinks with some teammates. But it was all pretty low-key.
It is tough being away from everyone, but I'm pretty lucky as my girlfriend has been here for most of the year. It is great having her here and makes it all a lot easier, and Mum came for a couple weeks, about a month ago, which was awesome seeing her as well. But still, I do miss the family and friends but we all keep in touch and the six months goes pretty quick.
You're up to 15 homeruns now for the season. Did you have a number in mind when the season started, or other specific goals for the year?
I didn't really have any numbers in mind. I just wanted to be more consistent overall, try and cut the strikeouts down and have a better season than last year. It would be nice to finish up around .300 though!!
How did you wind up a first baseman? What's the toughest aspect of playing the position?
When I first came to extended spring I was playing 3rd base. Just before the Gulf Coast season started, they signed a guy in the 4th round who played 3rd. So I played the first couple of games and then he started playing, and I sat on the bench for almost half the season. Then our 1st baseman got injured, so they said start taking some ground balls at 1st and I have been playing there ever since. It's a bit more relaxed than the other infield positions because you have more time. The toughest thing for me was that I always stretched too early and wouldn't get a lot of throws that I should have, and I always used to forget to go to the cut-off positions. But when you make a mistake over here you either learn pretty quick or practice enough until you get it right!!
Over the past few seasons you've developed a lot more power. What has been the biggest factor?
I'm not really sure what the biggest factor has been, probably that I found the weight room!! This previous off-season I worked out with Darren Fidge a lot, which helped me put on a bit of weight and get stronger. But apart from that, I haven't changed anything with my swing or approach. I wish I had a lot more power though!!
Who were your baseball heroes growing up?
Derek Jeter has always been my favourite player in the big leagues, but growing up at home my favourite players were Darren Fidge and Scott Pratt (aka The Specimen and Supe Dog). I used to watch them play in the local leagues and with the ABL and I was lucky enough to play with them at the Goodwood Baseball Club, and still with Fidgey at the Bite.
If you weren't playing baseball professionally, what would you be doing?
If I wasn't playing baseball, I honestly have no idea what I would be doing... hopefully playing another sport!! I think being a firefighter would be a great job but hopefully I can keep playing baseball long enough, until I have more time to figure it out or don't have to worry about it.
Who is the person that inspires you the most?
-From the Lavis Family
Haha. Hey Timmy, how are ya? How's the family? The people that inspire me the most would have to be my mum, and then Tim "Larry Lavis," when we're taking groundballs at Goodwood!!
How did you get your start in baseball?
I got into baseball because my dad played, so I grew up watching him play club ball and for the Adelaide Giants back in the old ABL days. As soon as I was old enough I started T-Ball. I played a lot of other sports growing up like AFL, cricket, basketball and soccer. But baseball was always the favourite. Even though it's not a big sport in Australia there were still great programs like SASI (South Australian Sports Institute) and the Australian Academy on the Gold Coast which helped me out a lot.
Tell us about St. Lucie, Florida, where you are currently playing?
Port St. Lucie is a great little town. It's very easy going and reminds me a lot of Adelaide because it's so relaxed. The biggest difference is that it's heaps hotter and it rains and thunderstorms nearly every day in summer. It's a great place to play though because the travel is great - the furthest team is about 3 hours away - and we mostly play in the big league spring training complexes so the stadiums are pretty nice.
Baseball is a game of superstitions. Do you have any?
I don't really have many superstitions, but I always put my left shoe on first and never step on the line. People always tell me I touch my hat a lot in the field before every pitch, but I don't realise how much I do it!!
What are a few of your career highlights, so far?
A few highlights would be coming fifth at the 2009 World Cup, and making the ABL Grand Final this year. The World Baseball Classic in 2009 was an awesome experience, as well, but I have been pretty lucky as baseball has taken me to a lot of great places all over the world.
Ask Stefan about his time in the US, playing tips or his favorite baseball moment.