Garcia reflects on 'special' weekend back home

April 17th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Jessica Camerato’s Nationals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

sat in the visitors’ dugout in Oakland Coliseum on Saturday morning. The ballpark gates were not yet open to fans, and there were only a few Nationals relievers on the tarp-covered field. The pregame scene provided a blank canvas for Garcia to paint his childhood experiences from 20 years ago.

“This is the first ballpark I ever watched my first big league game,” Garcia, 27, said, pointing to the left. “I was behind home plate.”

Garcia grew up in Manteca, Calif., approximately 55 miles east of the Coliseum. He began taking trips with his family to see Major League games when he was 8 years old.

On the Nationals’ current three-city road trip to the Bay Area and Los Angeles, Garcia returned to the West Coast for the first time as a Major Leaguer.

“It’s special,” he said. “It kind of brings back all the hard work I’ve put into this game. My journey wasn’t all roses, and it wasn’t a perfect journey to get there. It took a lot of grinding. There’s a lot of days where you feel defeated [and] there’s a lot of days where you feel like you’re on top of the world. I definitely learned over my career that you’ve got to stay even-keeled.”

Up until this season, the closest to home Garcia played was in Arizona during Spring Training as a member of the Royals’ organization. He debuted on July 14 last season with the Marlins, and he was acquired by the Nats off waivers two weeks later. Garcia earned an Opening Day roster spot for the first time as the only lefty in Washington’s bullpen.

His family, many wearing No. 61 jerseys, was on hand last weekend to see him play. Garcia pitched on Tuesday at Oracle Park and on both Friday and Saturday at Oakland Coliseum.

“It’s awesome, it’s awesome,” he said. “It’s the same game -- you just go out there and it’s good to see them after. It’s cool for them, for all the hard work they put in to allow me to play this game for so long, especially as a kid -- all the tournaments you go to, all the money it takes to play baseball. It’s tough, so you definitely appreciate that, for sure.”

In the same ballpark where he once sat as a child and dreamed of being a Major League player, Garcia appreciates how his view of the game has gone from in the stands to on the field.

“In any stadium, it’s always better on the mound,” he said. “It’s awesome. It’s a great feeling. It’s cool to be back.”