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Saturday, July 13, 2013
Stefan Welch woke up in his apartment about a month ago, glanced at his phone and felt his heart sink.
A missed call. A message. A request from his manager, wanting him to call him back immediately.
To Welch, who was hitting .149 at Pittsburgh’s Double-A affiliate, this could only mean one thing.
“I thought I’d been released,” he said.
Instead, much better news: Welch had been traded to the Red Sox, who were sending him to their Carolina League affiliate in Salem.
“It was actually a big sigh of relief,” Welch said. “Exciting times. The first couple days felt like the first day of school again, but it’s been awesome. I’ve been loving it.”
So have the Red Sox. Welch, a 24-year-old Australian infielder, has emerged as the team’s hottest hitter. He’s batted .323 in his first 29 games with the club and entered Friday riding an eight-game hitting streak.
His teammates have embraced him quickly, but not without a little good-natured ribbing about his nationality.
“I haven’t really heard ‘shrimp on the barbie’ too much, but I get a lot of stuff,” said a grinning Welch, who was originally signed by the Mets in 2005 out of the MLB Australian Academy Program. “Especially from [clubhouse manager] Tom [Wagner]. His favorite one is when I’m not here. He goes ‘Where’s Welchy? Aww, probably Outback.’ Which I thought was pretty good. I love it.”
Stereotypes don’t bother him. Welch said he loves Outback Steakhouse (“Good food!”) despite its lack of authenticity, and he said his favorite movie is “Crocodile Dundee.”
Most of all, he loves playing baseball. He took up the sport after his father, who pitched for the Australian national team in the 1988 Olympics.
Welch represented his homeland in the World Baseball Classic in 2009 and 2013. He made great memories there, much as he did Monday night against Myrtle Beach when he notched his first walk-off hit for the Sox.
“Just another one of those moments I’ll always remember,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll go all the way this year.”
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