The 2021 Diamond Hog’s squad will forever be remembered as one of the best teams to ever step foot on George Cole Field. Despite falling short of making it to Omaha, the season provided memories that will forever be cemented in Arkansas lore.
While it may have been the year of Kevin Kopps, another Razorback provided two of the most memorable moments in program history. Charlie Welch’s walk off double to clinch the SEC title and his pinch-hit moonshot against Nebraska to send the Hogs to the super regionals will be discussed in Fayetteville for decades for come.
After a wild pitch that allowed Christian Franklin to score and help the Hogs take a 3-2 lead over Nebraska, Baum was erupting at the seams. Welch was just as excited as the fans but he knew his job wasn’t finished. His adrenaline had to be through the roof, which isn’t necessarily the best thing to have running through your veins while you’re up to bat. However, Welch was able to collect himself despite 14,000 drunk Arkansans cheering as loud as possible.
After receiving the “swing away” gesture from Coach Van Horn, Welch plastered a 2-0 fastball into the Hog Pen for a 3-run homer giving the Razorbacks a four-run lead dagger. Even the ever-stoic DVH said it was the loudest roar he has ever heard at Baum stadium.
As impressive as the homerun was, being able to control his emotions in the moment and execute is even more remarkable. Prior to that at bat he was 7-11 as a pinch-hitter, an insane stat for someone who is coming off the bench swinging cold, having not seen a pitch all night. A 7-11 stretch at the plate for an everyday player is impressive. But that includes multiple at bats, seeing more pitches and having more opportunities to succeed. An everyday player might strike out their first three at-bats and hit a homerun in their final at-bat. But coming off the bench in such a high-pressure situation, pinch-hitters know this is their only chance to execute.
Baseball is a game of failure. If you fail 7 out of 10 times at the plate, that’s a Hall Of Fame career. If a quarterback has a completion percentage of 30% they likely will never see the field again. After his towering homer, Welch’s pinch-hit average rose to .667 all while coming off the bench. Sure he probably took batting practice before the game, but that was over 3 hours by the time he stepped up to the plate in the 8th inning.
The reason I bring this all up is that scouts notice these small stats. You put Charlie in to hit and he’ll find a way to get the job done. That level of maturity at the plate is something scouts look for in prospects. He never complained about lack of playing time, he put his head down and went to work. That blue-collar work ethic was infectious with Hog fans. He shut out adversity and performed rather than pout. I was shocked reading through Hogville and other Razorback forums saying that he was 100% coming back. As if there was zero chance he’d leave the hill.
I can understand why some fans believed he was returning. In a one-on-one interview with Pig Trail Nation after the season, Welch was asked about his first year as a Hog and the experience of playing for a top-tier program. Welch replied “It was an unbelievable opportunity and something I’ll forever be grateful for. Hopefully I can return next season and live up to this season and make it further,”
Maybe some fans took this comment as a guarantee that he would return. That interview was less than a month ago and in today’s world, things can change at a moment’s notice. With the Delta-Variant spreading rapidly perhaps Welch saw this as the best time to go pro rather than risk another cancelled season which would cause his stock to drop.
Baseball isn’t a sport that is based off past performance, it is more of a “what have you done lately” league. And Welch’s bat has never been hotter. Plus with a loaded recruiting class coming in maybe Welch feared being in the same situation as he was this year, being used more as a utility player.
Whatever his reason for leaving is, it is none of our business as fans to judge. After seeing comments on twitter calling him “selfish” and a “sellout” I was disappointed by Hog fans who feel this way. Charlie owes you nothing. He owes you LESS than nothing.
An opportunity to go pro is something 99% of people who play baseball don’t get. This is his dream, his career. Playing in front of 14,000 Hog fans in the nicest college stadium with the most passionate fanbase is great. But knowing you have the chance to take the field at T-Mobile Park in front of 50,000 fans with Mt. Rainier visible from the stadium on clear days is something you just can’t pass up.
Being upset with a kid chasing his dream because you don’t get to watch him while 16 Steel Reserves deep in the Hog Pen makes YOU the selfish asshole.
Other replies I saw said he’d bounce around the minors for 5 or so years before calling it quits. And if that does happen, so what? He gets to say he at least tried. And if that doesn’t happen and he makes it, he’ll be hitting bombs at every Starbucks in the city.
How insane do you have to be to be mad at a kid following his dream in one of the most gorgeous cities in the country. He’s from St. Petersburg, Florida, close to where I lived in my two years in The Sunshine State. That place is a complete free-for-all, I’d be wanting a change of scenery too.
People are acting like we won’t sniff Regionals with his departure while simultaneously stating he’d be competing for playing time. Because that makes sense and all. Twitter is just a place where people with awful sports takes go to die. The great thing about baseball? One player doesn’t win you games like in basketball. Sure he could hit a homerun in a 1-0 game, but the pitcher still has to throw strikes and players field the ball.
It’s like they think one more year at Arkansas transforms him from a fringe-prospect to a Bryce Harper-level hyped player.
It’d be like Willy Wonka telling Charlie he can take over the Chocolate Factory in a few years but for the meantime he has to go back to the shack with Grandpa Joe’s bedridden musty ass. Or telling a senior in high school who received an academic scholarship to attend an Ivy League school that you think they should spend one more year in high school just to be safe. It just doesn’t make sense.
Charlie Welch doesn’t owe you a damn thing. And that’s the way it should be. So Tom from Paragould or Doug in Mountain Home or Buster in Beebe, just chill out and mind your own. It’s gonna be okay.