Matt Ford-Wellman brings a presence on the mound, but he's been most notable with the energy he brings in the dugout and being a team-first player, according to coach Mike Minkel. Photo by Shannon Minyard.

Matt Ford-Wellman knows he’s not one of the household names on the talent-laden Los Gatos High School baseball team. 

However, the senior pitcher finds other ways to contribute, a fact not lost on Wildcats coach Mike Minkel. 

“The ultimate team-first teammate,” Minkel said in a text message to the Los Gatan. “Uber talented, lots of volunteer efforts.”

Los Gatos entered this week’s play 17-3 overall and 6-2 in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division. Outside of the West Catholic Athletic League, the SCVAL De Anza is arguably the toughest baseball league in the Central Coast Section. 

Ford-Wellman, who closed out games against Mountain View and Gunn recently, has pitched sparingly this season due to the number of quality arms in front of him. 

“We’ve got some of the best pitchers in the CCS, so it’s been an uphill battle coming out of the pen and competing against some of our own guys (for innings),” Ford-Wellman said. “They’re so dominant in their own right. … It’s always fun coming out of the bullpen. Our starters set us up really nice and our offense gives us tons of run support, so there’s room for error. I’d almost compare it to that I’m the third-string QB—you get set up perfectly so you’re basically taking knees at that point (closing out a game with a big lead). There’s not a lot of stress and I enjoy it.”

In a 10-4 win over Mountain View on March 27, Lucas Carlisle hit a grand slam and finished with five RBIs. Two days later, Los Gatos completed the two-game sweep of Mountain View with a 9-1 victory. AJ Minyard threw a no-hitter with nine strikeouts, AJ Ljepava went 4-for-4 and Donovan Freed hit a home run. 

Any team that aspires to win a championship needs talent and intangibles, and it’s the latter where Ford-Wellman makes his presence known. As one of the more vocal players in the dugout, Ford-Wellman keeps things loose and fun. 

“I love cheering on my guys,” he said. “I love rooting for them in tough spots. We’ve got a lot of good guys on our squad, so it makes it easy to cheer them on and get behind them. I think it does mean something to have a dugout presence. I think it enhances a team further (toward achieving their goals). 

“I love talking about all things baseball and being vocal in practice about what we’re doing and the jobs we need to be doing. When you step on the field, there has to be some sense of urgency and it starts with specific players. Santino Nanez is one of those guys always communicating and keeping us together.”

In the last week of March, the team started playing Two Ball during games, a warm-up drill that keeps players active while waiting in between innings. The top collegiate baseball squads incorporate Two Ball into their daily game program. 

“It’s a way to keep the dugout involved,” Ford-Wellman said. “There’s a lot of good energy, it keeps everyone loose, it keeps us alive, keeps the long innings from getting long, and keeps the game moving quick.” 

Los Gatos High has produced some incredible players over the years, the most recent being 2020 graduate Tommy Troy, who was selected No. 12 by the Arizona Diamondbacks in last year’s Major League Baseball Draft. 

Ford-Wellman said Troy—who went on to star at Stanford—was the player he most admired growing up. 

“I remember watching him play in the CCS (2018 Open Division) championship game against Valley Christian,” he said. “We ended up losing—but you could tell he was on a different level above everybody. And at college he was two steps above everybody.”

Ford-Wellman also looked up to 2021 LGHS graduates Tommy Splaine and Logan Johnstone, who were seniors when Ford-Wellman was a freshman. Splaine plays at the University of Arizona and Johnstone at Washington State, but they take time to visit LGHS when the opportunity arises, Ford-Wellman said. 

For most high school student-athletes, their senior year of playing sports is their last from a competitive standpoint. The same holds true for Ford-Wellman, who couldn’t have asked for anything more in his final season of playing competitive baseball. 

“It’s been a really awesome last season and I wouldn’t want to do it with any other group of guys,” he said. “I hope it doesn’t end for a long while. We’d like to make a deep run in the playoffs and come out with our desired expectations. Even though it’ll be the end for me, I’ll keep up with my teammates as many of them go on to play at the next level.”

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Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.


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