It was a sad day for the Padres, and the rest of the baseball world as it was announced that Padres’ Vice President of scouting operations, Don Welke has passed away.
The man known throughout the Padres’ organization as “coach” spent the last five years with the Padres. Shortly after the Padres had hired A.J. Preller away from the Rangers, Welke joined the team late in 2014. The two worked together in the Rangers’ organization underneath Rangers’ General Manager, Jon Daniels.
Much of the baseball world is hurting today, as Welke spent time with eight different organizations across his career. Welke first began his career 53 years ago with the Cincinnati Reds in 1965. He then worked for the Kansas City Royals from 1970-1976, before being hired by the Toronto Blue Jays in 1977, where he worked for nearly two decades until 1996. During his time with the Rangers, Welke played a very big part in building the Rangers team that won back-to-back American League pennants in 2010 and 2011. Before joining the Rangers, Welke also worked for the Orioles, Dodgers, and Phillies.
Welke was born and raised in Illinois. Welke played baseball and basketball in Wisconsin at Carthage College, before embarking on a long prolific career in Major League Baseball.
Padres ownership Ron Fowler and Peter Seidler, commented on the passing of Welke saying, “He was a legend in the baseball world and an invaluable member of the Padres front office. Don was a super scout and a super guy, and we will miss him greatly.”
General manager A.J. Preller also made a statement saying, “Don had a tremendous career in baseball, both as a talent evaluator and in the relationships that he built. He was a visionary who knew and loved baseball, and he shared that knowledge and passion with me and countless other scouts throughout his five decades in the game. Beyond his accomplishments, Don was a loyal and generous friend. Everyone whose lives he touched was better for having known him.”
Preller spoke about how everyone was better for having known Don, and I can say I had the pleasure and joy to personally meet and speak to Don Welke on several occasions, when I spent time in Arizona working this past spring. Coach always came into a room greeting everyone that was present. Anytime he would walk into a room, the entire place would light up with everyone saying, “Hey coach! How’s it going?”, while he would spark up a conversation about the weather or the exhibition game later that day. It didn’t matter who you were or where you were to Don Welke. He would still greet you as if you were a friend.
Although Welke was 75 years old, he was still at the Peoria Sports Complex day in and day out, watching and analyzing all the young talent inhabiting the complex for the day. Everyday coach was there, maneuvering through the complex from field to field in his golf cart doing what he loved. A true brilliant baseball mind that loved the game and being apart of it. Not only was he an incredibly gifted baseball mind, but he was an incredible kind-hearted person, who is admired by many for his friendship and passion. Even at 75 years old, he was still just a kid at heart whenever he was around the game he loved.
Don “Coach” Welke will be deeply missed by many, and may he Rest in Peace.