As the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of high school spring sports, local seniors were faced with an abrupt ending to their high school careers. A group of these students were also athletes at the Texas Rangers MLB Youth Academy at Mercy Street Sports Complex, Presented by Toyota. This Rangers Academy Senior Spotlight series seeks to highlight those athletes who have worked on their craft at the Academy as they move into the next chapter in their lives.
For Giselle Garcia, returning to the fields at the Texas Rangers Youth Academy at Mercy Street Sports Complex for the summer RBI season is about more than just redeeming some softball games lost to COVID-19.
“Being able to step foot into the field again after having everything closed and living in fear makes you feel alive again," Garcia said. "It gives you hope that things will return back to normal."
Since 2018, Garcia has enjoyed spending summer mornings practicing at the Academy, meeting new players who became friends.
“Thanks to the Texas Rangers Youth Academy, I am able to live out and play my last softball season as I head out to college with an amazing group of teammates and friends that have stuck by me throughout my time at the Academy,” Garcia said.
The night before the Academy RBI All-Star team was scheduled to depart for the RBI Southwest Regional in Austin, Texas, a late roster change made Garcia part of Academy history.
Academy director Juan Leonel Garciga, who also coached the softball squad, recounted what happened that evening when it needed to replace a player on the roster.
“We had a short list of players to consider, and given Gigi’s commitment and work ethic throughout the year, plus her ability to serve as a solid defender at every infield position, we made the call," Garciga said. "We knew she would fit right in with her positive attitude and team-first mentality."
That softball squad went on to secure the first win in program history and advance to the championship contest, where it fell to the eventual RBI Softball World Series champion Houston Astros.
“She is the perfect example of what happens when you always give maximum effort; you never know who is watching,” Garciga said.
Garcia’s senior season at Molina High School was cut short due to the pandemic. Playing in the RBI summer league at the Academy is giving her another chance to play the game she loves.
“Having my senior year and softball season cut short due to COVID was heartbreaking for all of us. Not only did I miss out on playing my last season with my amazing teammates, but I also missed out on graduation, prom, senior activities, and the last few memories and moments that I had yet to make with my classmates,” Garcia said.
Garcia is headed to Wichita Falls, Texas, in the fall to begin classes at Midwestern State University. She plans to pursue kinesiology and leisure studies, aiming to become a professional athletic trainer.
“My ultimate goal is to strive for a better lifestyle and be able to give back to my family and friends who have been there for me through it all,” Garcia said.
Although her softball career may be winding down, Garcia knows parts of the game will carry over into the rest of her life.
“The most important thing that I have learned from playing softball for about six years is that the game teaches you life skills," Garcia said. "When you work through failure, your dreams are within reach. Keep moving forward and never give up."