FEATURE: Casey Wellman In Springfield Republican
Dec. 4, 2009
By Dick Baker
AMHERST, Mass. - Casey Wellman, the son of a former major league baseball infielder, put away his bat and glove in favor of his skates and stick at the age of 12, and the University of Massachusetts hockey program is reaping the benefits.
Brad Wellman played in the "show" from 1982-89 - the first few years with the San Francisco Giants, the last couple with the Kansas City Royals, and a quick stop with the Los Angeles Dodgers in between. And with that background, how does a kid from the warmth of Brentwood, Calif., not follow in the footsteps of his dad and end up playing Division I hockey on the frigid side of the country instead?
"Baseball is too boring for me, you just stand out there waiting for something to happen," Casey Wellman said.
Casey was a shortstop, and by his own admission, he was a singles hitter.
"A line drive hitter, like my dad," he said.
But at UMass, he's not hitting singles, he's hitting the hockey equivalent of home runs. Wellman enters Friday night's Hockey East showdown with Boston College (7 p.m., Mullins Center) second in the nation in scoring with 1.67 points per game. And with 11 goals in only 12 games, he has already matched his entire goal-scoring output for last year. He has 20 points overall, and at this outrageous pace, he would finish with 35 goals and 60 points.
So thank his uncle, not his dad.
His uncle, who played professionally for the now defunct Fresno Falcons of the ECHL, was the one that introduced Casey, then only 3-years-old, and his older brother Logan, who was 8, to the game of hockey.
"By the time he was 4, he was already on a team," said his mother Jodi Wellman when reached by phone in Brentwood.
The first number the little tike requested was "70" and he got it. Ever since, he's mostly worn "70" so his mom says it was a bit of a disappointment to him when he couldn't get it at UMass, so he settled for "7" instead. There's nobody likely to let him change it now, not the way he's going.
When Casey played for the San Jose Junior Sharks, Jodi Wellman said practice was about an hour and 15 minutes away, and that games also took place in Colorado and Arizona. She became a real hockey mom.
"We're more of a hockey family," Jodi said. "There's not a lot of baseball on the television, but a lot of hockey."
Brad, who still enjoys watching baseball, is an athletic trainer for baseball athletes. Logan is married, in charge of health and safety for a construction company, and has made Brad and Jodi proud grandparents. Meanwhile, Casey is in the process of constructing a career in pro hockey.
But first things first - Boston College - and the Eagles already know all about him. Last year, on the night of Operation 8k (the athletic department's quest for an 8,000 crowd), Wellman scored the overtime game-winner before a Mullins Center record attendance of 8,389. It's Operation 8k again Friday night, and Wellman still holds the memory.
"That was unbelievable, it's one of those games you dream about, scoring the goal and having all your teammates jumping on you," Wellman said.
The atmosphere should be similar Friday night as the No. 9 Minutemen and the No. 15 Eagles collide. There are 3,500 student seats set aside for a game of this magnitude, and with a good pre-sale and walk-up on Friday, it's likely that they'll hit 8,000 again, and a good chance it could be sold out.
And the visitors arrive with a hometown attraction. Sophomore forward Barry Almeida of Springfield, a 2007 graduate of Longmeadow High School, will be in the lineup for BC and wearing No. 9. Almeida scored his first goal of the season during the second period of a 6-5 home win over Clarkson Nov. 27.
It's a huge weekend for the Minutemen, who are also at No. 8 UMass-Lowell Saturday night.
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