One round after another, Toby Welk sat in his home, eyes glued to his laptop.
The former Penn State Berks infielder watched live coverage of the 2019 Major League Baseball Draft with rigorous intent. Every so often, Welk temporarily escaped the stressful event that would determine his future, heading outside to shoot his bow and arrow before returning to his seat.
As the picks continued to scroll across the screen and the arrows hit the target, Welk grew anxious.
“I’ve never felt my blood pressure so high,” Welk told The Daily Collegian. “You just hear names over and over and you’re just waiting for one phone call. “
And then, just prior to the start of the 21st round, Welk got the call.
“It was surreal,” Welk said. “I didn’t believe it until my name actually popped up.”
The Baltimore Orioles called Welk just prior to selecting him with the 618th overall pick on Wednesday, June 5, the final day of the draft.
“The first thing that popped into my mind was all the memories of going to baseball games when I was younger,” Welk said. “I’m on the level that I always wished I was and now I’m getting my opportunity, and I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Welk made history with the selection, as he became the first student-athlete in Penn State Berks history to be drafted by one of the major sports leagues in the United States. A Penn State Commonwealth campus, Berks sponsors NCAA Division III baseball.
“It’s a very big honor to get drafted, especially out of a school like [Penn State Berks],” Welk said. “I wanted to pursue my degree and whatever happened with baseball happened.”
The achievement was fitting for the lifelong underdog, as Welk encountered his fair share of doubters along the way.
“I heard from coaches that I couldn’t even play [high school] varsity baseball when I was younger,” Welk said. “It’s all motivation.”
As scouts came to watch him play during his junior year, Welk began to recognize that being drafted was a realistic possibility. He garnered a significant amount of attention from Baltimore Orioles scout Nathan Showalter, the son of former Baltimore manager Buck Showalter.
“He always believed in me and [thought] that I could play at the next level,” Welk said. “I got to give props to him, because not many Division III kids get the shot.”
As a junior, Welk posted a .492 batting average, recording 13 home runs and 57 RBIs. The 2018 campaign marked his best season statistically, which led to more attention from scouts the following year.
With increased interest from professional scouts, Welk said he felt more pressure than normal in the offseason leading up to his senior year. But once he stepped in the batter’s box for the first time in early March, it was just another baseball season.
“I knew it was my senior year [so] I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself,” Welk said. “I just wanted to have fun.”
Welk lived up to the hype once again, batting .483 with 13 dingers and 58 RBIs in 2019. The senior was named the National Player of the Year by D3Baseball.com and was a First Team All-American for the second season in a row.
Welk registered a batting average of .400 or higher in three of his four seasons with the blue and white, splitting time between third base and shortstop. A four-year starter, Welk shattered several offensive records during his time with the Nittany Lions.
The senior ended his collegiate career as Berks’ all-time leader in hits (241), batting average (.433), doubles (53), home runs (34), RBIs (201), slugging percentage (.768) and at-bats (557). Welk also ranks second all-time in runs scored (165), triples (16), on-base percentage (.508) and starts (149).
“It is an honor and a big thing to get drafted, but especially coming from this level," coach Justin Konnick told Penn State Berks Athletics. "He earned every bit of it with his hard work over the last four years.”
Welk will now take his talents to the minor leagues as the first Berks graduate to ever do so. He hopes his story will inspire baseball players at small colleges all over the country to never give up their dreams of playing professionally.
“If you’re playing at the college level, it’s possible, no matter what,” Welk said. “If you dedicate yourself and you want to do it, you can.”