Feb. 6, 2013
The University of Michigan baseball program welcomes a whole new coaching staff for the 2013 season. The staff has now been here for around seven months and will coach its first game on Friday, Feb. 15, at California. As we countdown Opening Day, we will introduce and get to know the new staff.
Next up is special assistant Wayne Welton. This is Welton's second year with the Michigan baseball program, but first as a special assistant after being the volunteer assistant coach in 2012. Welton was the head baseball coach at Chelsea High School in Chelsea, Mich., for 32 years. He had a record of 767-357-11 and guided the Bulldogs to a 1991 Class B state title and 13 Southeastern Conference championships. Welton was named the 1991 MHSBCA Coach of the Year and is an eight-time Regional Coach of the Year. He was elected to the MHSBCA Hall of Fame in 2003 and reached the 700-win plateau in 2007.
Welton also was the athletic director at Chelsea for 22 years, guiding 24 varsity programs with 90-plus coaches. He was named the Regional Athletic Director of the Year by the MIAAA in 2010 and earned the Bush Service Award by the Michigan High School Athletic Association in 2006.
In this Q & A, Welton talks about his role this season as the special assistant, how his years at Chelsea help him in this new position, and how Team 147 has come together in the weeks before the season begins.
Q: You are working with a new staff this season. How has it gone so far and how has the staff acclimated itself to the team and University?
A: Well, first of all, I'd have to say that the staff is first and foremost, very professional, high energy, and just some guys who love baseball, love people, and have brought a renewed sense of vigor to our program. And for me, personally, it's been a unique opportunity to be a part of it. Erik had no reason to bring me back and I appreciate and respect the fact that he was willing to hear what I could bring to the table. Clearly, the vision for the program is to be elite, and that's what we want to be about here at Michigan. I think everything we've done this fall and up to this point has reflected that vision.
Q: What is your day-to-day role as the special assistant?
A: I'm really doing what a traditional director of operations person would be doing. I've been doing day to day director of operations job, arranging our travel, and the unique part of the way Erik has designed this is that I get to attend practice even while I can't coach. And for me, it's the first time in 35 years that I'm out of uniform, so to feel uniquely involved and part of everything day-to-day has been a joy.
Q: Was working at the high school level and as an athletic director at Chelsea helped you in this new role?
A: The things I did at Chelsea High, we directed 24 programs at multiple levels. We had 100 coaches that reported directly to my office. I told our guys the other night at a team building exercise that I've never worked a day in my life. I've been one of those lucky people who have always loved what they do, and I think most of it is because I enjoy people, interacting with them and working with people to reach a goal or develop a vision that they have. I guess along the way I had goals and visions of my own, but clearly my experience at Chelsea, running a $750,000 budget and managing people has allowed me to transition and, I hope, be effective here.
Q: What have you seen from Coach Bakich so far that makes him such a good coach?
A: First of all, he has a plan. That plan is as detailed as it could possibly be, from practice plans to leadership training to all things we do with our players, and he's been open and receptive to other ideas. But clearly, I think that one thing Erik brings outside of the vision is energy. He's on the go all the time, he's well thought out, he's professional in everything he does, and Michigan is in a great place with Erik Bakich as the head coach.
Q: Have you seen this time come together from where it was in the fall to where it is now?
A: I think our guys were tentative in the fall, trying to figure out what the expectations of what the new staff was going to be. I think the fall has developed with some mental game training we've done with Brian Cain, to leadership activities we did with Bennett Dean, to the Omaha Challenge and just the breakdown of teaching the game by our staff. I think our guys are 100 percent, and this might sound cliché, but I think our guys are 100 percent in, and it's been a fun thing to watch because from those tentative early days of the fall to where we are now, it's dramatic and it's different from the attitude that guys have. They're confident and I think they're excited about our season, and I think it's pretty clear that they're all in.
Q: How excited are you to start the season?
A: There might be a tear I wipe off my cheek not being in uniform, but that will quickly go away to the excitement we have about all the work we've put in. The bonding that's taken place, not just with our players, but amongst our staff, and our staff with our players, I think that first series will be an exciting time and I think this team is going to surprise a lot of people on campus and in the Big Ten.