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Garcia celebrates his late grandfather

Notebook: O'Neill's hot bat keeps him in starting lineup vs. Royals
MLB.com @JoeTrezz

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals infielder Greg Garcia's career in professional baseball began in 2001, when at 12 years old, he spent a season as a bat boy for the Rockies. For one mile-high summer, Garcia fetched foul balls and racked helmets while brushing shoulders with the likes of Todd Helton, Larry Walker, Mike Hampton and Juan Pierre.

It was the kind of big league "opportunity a lot of kids don't have," Garcia said on Tuesday when reflecting on the death of his grandfather.

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ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals infielder Greg Garcia's career in professional baseball began in 2001, when at 12 years old, he spent a season as a bat boy for the Rockies. For one mile-high summer, Garcia fetched foul balls and racked helmets while brushing shoulders with the likes of Todd Helton, Larry Walker, Mike Hampton and Juan Pierre.

It was the kind of big league "opportunity a lot of kids don't have," Garcia said on Tuesday when reflecting on the death of his grandfather.

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Dave Garcia, whose six-plus decades in the game included stints managing the Angels and Indians, died this week in San Diego. He was 97.

"It's sad, but he lived such a great life," Greg Garcia said. "I can't even count the amount of people that have come up to me and said your grandfather did this for me, or did that for me. And it's not just baseball people. The cameraman in San Diego said my grandpa had an effect on him. The ticket lady said the same thing to my dad. That's the thing I'm most proud of being his grandson, the people he affected. It's something my entire family strives to do, affect people in a positive way. I'm very lucky."

Dave Garcia was in his mid-70s when he joined the Rockies' coaching staff in 2000. He was manager Buddy Bell's bench coach the following summer, which Garcia spent in the dugout alongside his grandson. An East St. Louis, Ill., native, Dave Garcia also worked three years on the Padres' big league staff in the 1970s, and he managed in the Minors for the Padres, Giants and Angels. He managed the Angels from July 1977 until June 1978, and the Indians from 1979-1982.

Greg Garcia, who is day to day with lower back stiffness, isn't expecting to leave the Cardinals following his grandfather's death. He said his family will hold the funeral in November so more members of the baseball industry can attend.

"My grandpa gave me a lot of opportunities that a lot of kids don't have, and I know I always wanted to make the most of it," Greg Garcia said. "The last time I saw him was this offseason. I gave him a hug and told him I loved him. It was a really nice moment. I feel really good about the way I left things with my grandpa."

While Garcia doesn't plan to go on bereavement leave, he is expecting to leave the team sometime in the near future for the birth of his first child. Garcia and his wife, Hannah, are expecting a baby girl they plan to name Olivia, in early June.

"We're ready," Garcia said. "Well, we think we are."

O'Neill gets call in CF
Tyler O'Neill's recent torrid stretch earned him another start in manager Mike Matheny's lineup on Tuesday against the Royals -- this time in center field in place of Tommy Pham.

Matheny basically said he had no choice but to insert O'Neill again into his crowded outfield alignment after the rookie homered in each of the previous three games, including a three-run jack that propelled the Cardinals to a 6-0 win in Monday's I-70 Series opener.

Video: KC@STL: O'Neill homers in his third straight game

"How do you not play him?" Matheny said. "When he's done what he's done over the last couple days, how do you not play him?"

Predominately a corner outfielder in the Minors, O'Neill played center field just 15 times in his professional career, most recently seven games last season at Triple-A Memphis. While Matheny believes O'Neill possesses enough speed to handle the position, he conceded O'Neill is mainly in the lineup for his bat. O'Neill entered Tuesday 7-for-12 (.583) with three homers and seven RBIs since being called up on Friday, earning a pair of Busch Stadium curtain calls in the process.

"With Tyler it's very clear. We throw him in there and big things happen," Matheny said. "It boils down to a young player stepping in and making a difference, and making a big splash. For us to deny that I think would be a missed opportunity."

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

Sean Collins is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Louis.

St. Louis Cardinals, Greg Garcia, Tyler O'Neill