For as long as Dillon Welch can remember, life focused on auto racing. His crib was filled with toy cars. When he could walk, he tagged along with his father, a TV sports broadcaster, at various tracks. And he started racing quarter midget cars as a 7-year-old.
Now, the 22-year-old telecommunications graduate from Noblesville is starting a career in sports broadcasting. He recently won a regional Emmy for his work as a member of Sports Link at Ball State and has handled professional broadcasting assignments at tracks in Wisconsin and Las Vegas.
“I’ve been exposed to racing for so long, and now it’s become my passion,” he said. “I’ve done other sports like basketball and football, and I enjoy them, but I simply love auto racing. It’s what I know best.”
Dillon got his first big break last August with Motor Racing Network in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. He was a turn announcer for the national radio broadcast of a NASCAR Xfinity Series race. He then traveled to Las Vegas in October for a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event.
“I was really excited about that first race in Wisconsin. I was nervous during auditions, but I was calm when I arrived. When it came to my turn to call that part of the race, I took a deep breath, stayed calm and got it all in. Then it went fairly smoothly.”
Following in his dad’s footsteps … sort of
While Welch has been prepping for his post-college career, his father has been an advocate, adviser and best friend. Vince Welch, a 1987 Ball State grad, has spent more than 25 years in sports news and broadcasting.
The elder Welch’s resume includes being a pit reporter for ABC Sports and ESPN for the Indy Racing League, plus NASCAR. When ESPN lost the rights to NASCAR coverage in 2014, he jumped Fox Sports for NASCAR and college basketball.
“Having traveled that road myself I know how difficult it is, and the sacrifices you must make to be successful,” he said in an email. “Broadcasting is not an 8-5 M-F gig. Its long hours, odd hours, weekends, little pay starting out. It’s hard on your family. You miss a lot. Your spouse must be understanding and independent because you’re gone so much. All those elements stack the odds against you, and I haven’t even touched on whether you’re good enough, or lucky enough, to get an opportunity to achieve a desired level of success.
“Being a race car driver almost all his life, he knows the sport, but knowing the sport and being a good broadcaster are two different animals. I knew that night (in August that) he had the potential to make this his profession.”
Dillon appreciates not only his father’s friendship but also his support as Dillon chases a career in sports broadcasting.
“His name has opened some doors, and he’s made some calls, but my dad has stressed that it’s up to me to make the connections, do the interviews and do the best I can. He’s always been there to provide career advice and good advice about life in general.”
Sharpening his skills
For the last four years, Welch — set to graduate with a telecommunications degree in May — has been honing his broadcasting skills as a member of the university’s Sports Link, one of the country’s top collegiate digital sports media programs.
He’s become a young, talented broadcaster who has covered football, volleyball and basketball — winning a regional Emmy for his show “Out of the Shadows,” a broadcast that provided viewers with a behind-the-scenes look at Ball State’s men’s college basketball team.
The last four years have been filled with long nights in the production trucks at various sporting events, moving TV cameras and laying cables, writing scripts and interviewing college athletes.
“Being a member of Sports Link has allowed me to learn how to be a professional,” he said. “Whether that is running cameras, producing from the live truck or calling the game from the booth, you learn how to do it all. It’s been an incredible experience that no other college really offers.
“We in Sports Link stress that it is all about being a professional. You always treat people right. You have to know your place and work hard to earn respect, and always respect others. You want to be solid and not make too many mistakes. We are young kids who are coming in and trying to get established. So, just be a professional.”
Making your future
Welch is an example of how a student can create his or her future by taking an entrepreneurial approach and becoming immersed in Ball State’s opportunities, said Chris Taylor, a TCOM instructor and director of digital sports production.
“He’s maximized his opportunities within our college, took creative risks and became a confident professional,” Taylor said. “When you look at where Dillon started as a freshman to where he will finish as a senior, his development has been rewarding to watch. His future started now at Ball State. That’s inspiring for anyone with a dream.”