Herb Welch, coach and volunteer, remembered

DOWNEY - Former Major League Baseball draftee, volunteer award winner, and Downey resident Herbert Welch passed away last week. He turned 76 this month.Welch, a familiar face to many people in the city, was best known for his community service, especially with West Downey Little League (WDLL) where he dedicated more than 50 years as a coach and board member. He also put in many hours during the hot summers to make sure the fields the kids played on were maintained and ready to go. His role in the league started off small but grew into something much larger. Welch became the face of the baseball program, building his relationships with the kids as not just another parent-volunteer but one of the most knowledgeable, respected, and easy-going coaches in the league. Players past and present have nothing but fond memories of Welch and his personal touch to coaching, along with the life lessons gleaned from the game. "My prayers are with Herb and his family," said Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, who was coached by Welch at WDLL. "He was a great coach, mentor, and even more important a great human being. "It was a tremendous honor to have known and been a part of his life. He will forever be missed in my heart and in the community of Downey." Welch coached many notable athletes during his time, including former professional baseball player Rick Burleson and head football coach at the University of California, Jeff Tedford. His work, although glamorous at times with names like Longoria and Burleson, was geared toward his community and watching the kids he was involved with grow into not just athletes but standout citizens. "He loved being able to inspire and be part of kids' lives," said Welch's wife Shirley. "That was his life. He spent a few years at the Downey Junior Athletic Association. It wasn't all just WDLL. He also volunteered at the YMCA and did work with the Indian Guides. "He was wherever he was needed. He helped over at Warren to raise funds and was on booster clubs. He just liked to be busy." Mayor Mario Guerra said the city has suffered a great loss because of what Welch brought to the community. "His biggest enjoyment was watching the kids grow up," said Guerra who also worked alongside Welch during their many years at WDLL. "The loss is that a generation will miss out on a Herb Welch. Baseball and sports was just an avenue. A generation will not get to know sportsmanship through someone like a Herb Welch. "Our city will suffer because of his passing. He was a very decent human being. That translated on how he lived his life." Welch was originally born in Emmet, Ark. and moved to Paramount when he was 16. He attended Paramount High School for a brief time before finishing at Compton High School. After high school, he was drafted by MLB as a pitcher, but his career was cut short by a wrist injury. He then worked as a truck driver, followed by two years in the U.S. Army where he served tours of duty in the Korean War. During his time in the service, Welch received many honors including medals in marksmanship. Following his time with the Army, he went back to truck driving and worked for Container Corporation of America for close to 50 combined years until he retired. After retirement, Welch put his time toward coaching kids in baseball, specifically at WDLL where one of the fields has been named in his honor. Welch is survived by his wife, Shirley; children Herb Jr. (Katie), Dennis (Carmen), Stacy (Mike) and Tammy; sisters Sue, Carol and Charlotte; grandchildren Lindsey, Joshua, Ryan, Patrick, Robbie, Kelsie, Tyler, Elias, Aleah, Ellie, D.J., Matthew, and Doyan; and granddaughter Kaylee. He was predeceased by a sister, Marge, and brother, Clifford. A funeral service will take place Saturday at First Baptist Church of Downey, 8348 3rd St., at 2 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked a donation be made to the charity or youth program of your choice. ********** Published: January 9, 2009 - Volume 7 - Issue 38

Eric Pierce