By John Philip Wyllie
Fate can be cruel sometimes. In professional baseball the difference between making it big and struggling to maintain a career can often be decided as much by bad luck as it is by talent. Take San Diego Surf Dawgs shortstop, Tony Garcia.
After a brilliant career at Pepperdine University, Garcia was selected in the 13th round of the 2001 MLB player draft by the Chicago Cubs, one round ahead of Padres 2004 Rookie-of-the-Year runner-up Kahlil Greene.
“I was a coordinator with the Cubs when he got drafted, so I’ve known Tony for a while,” said former MLB All-Star and current Surf Dawgs Manager, Terry Kennedy. “As luck would have it, he broke his finger taking what was I think his third ground ball in his first practice. So he missed his first year (entirely) and he didn’t fully recover in his second year. Things might have been a lot different for him if he hadn’t gotten hurt.”
After his second season in the minors with Chicago, Garcia was traded to St. Louis where he spent a year in their farm system before moving on to minor league ball with the Colorado Rockies. Injured again in spring training, Garcia was released.
“Playing with the Surf Dawgs gives me a chance to play every day, refine my skills and hopefully make it back into affiliated ball,” Garcia said. “I’ve bounced around a bit in my short professional career, but I have learned a lot and I feel like I have grown a lot as a player each year. Terry, our manager, is doing all that he can to get me and my teammates back into affiliated ball.” Kennedy is very high on his shortstop.
“He is looking real good right now. In fact, he is the best shortstop that I’ve seen in this league. He was one of the first guys that I signed after the first draft. I needed a shortstop and I knew he could play, so when I found out he was available I needed to get him. I am really happy that he is playing like he is and playing for me,” Ken-nedy added.
With 21 hits, 15 RBIs, two home runs and a batting average of .247, Garcia is a solid contributor at the plate, but what really makes him special are his quick hands, lateral movement and ability to handle ground balls that other shortstops in this league would not reach.
Growing up in the Moreno Valley and later attending Temecula Valley High School, Garcia is one of only a few Surf Dawg players with local ties. He and catcher Nick Guerra make up the teams Hispanic component.
“My Dad is Mexican and my Mom is Cuban so I grew up in a Spanish speaking household, but my Spanish now isn’t as good as it should be,” Garcia admitted. “But I am proud of my heritage and I like the idea of being a role model to little Latino kids. I’ve done a few sports camps and I love seeing those little guys throw the ball around.”
The first place (17-8) San Diego Surf Dawgs return home tonight (Friday 6-24) for a three game series against the Japan Samurai Bears and continue the homestand with a three-game meeting with the Chico Outlaws 6-28 through 6-30.