ARLINGTON -- Two hours before the Rangers and Rays played Saturday afternoon, Adolis García bounced out of the batting cage set up around home plate at Globe Life Field and took a seat on the back of a flat-bed equipment trailer parked in foul territory near the visitors’ dugout.
And there, the Rangers’ rookie outfielder sat for the better part of an hour, chatting with a close friend wearing Rays gear: Randy Arozarena.
The relationship between García and Arozarena dates back years. Both grew up in Cuba. Both signed with the Cardinals. When they reported to their first Spring Training camp in 2017, they were reunited as roommates. And that, Arozarena said, is when their bond grew even tighter.
“We both have similar backgrounds, and we grew up playing together,” García said. “For us to meet again here in the big leagues together is a pretty cool thing. I want to hopefully be able do the things that he’s doing here in the big leagues and be able to prove that I can be the same kind of player that he is as well.”
They’ve followed remarkably similar paths to success in the Majors. The Rays acquired Arozarena from the Cardinals in January 2020, and watched him turn into last postseason’s unlikely and unquestioned star. When St. Louis designated García for assignment in December 2019, Texas acquired him for cash, called him up for three games last season and then let him loose in April.
Over the past two months, the 28-year-old García has established himself as an American League Rookie of the Year candidate -- perhaps surprisingly even more worthy than the 26-year-old Arozarena at this point -- by hitting .278/.316/.552 with 16 homers and 42 RBIs through 50 games entering Sunday.
It wouldn’t be accurate to say nobody saw this coming. For one, Rangers hitting coach Luis Ortiz laid it out quite clearly earlier this season when he said of García, “He could be the next Randy Arozarena.” And there might be nobody less surprised -- or more happy to see García thriving -- than Arozarena.
“I've known him for a while, and what he's doing is what I've always seen him do,” Arozarena said through an interpreter. “He's a good ballplayer. He works hard, and it's good to see him and I support him. In any capacity that he plays this game, he plays it well.”
Rangers manager Chris Woodward said the similarities between the two Cuban outfielders stretch beyond their shared background and breakout performances.
“What Arozarena did last year in the playoffs was cool. He came out and nobody really knew who he was until that,” Woodward said. “The first person I thought of was Adolis, because I know that, obviously, he was with them as well. Just their style of play, too, they obviously have a joy for the game. They're very exciting players and super talented. … They have a tendency to draw a lot of attention to the way they play the game. And obviously, coming from the same country, growing up as friends, it's a cool story.”
When Arozarena was tormenting opposing pitchers throughout his historic postseason performance last fall, he often heard from García. Arozarena said his friend called and texted him, congratulating him and encouraging him to keep going. And after the Rays lost Game 6 of the World Series at Globe Life Field, the first place Arozarena visited was García’s house to share a hug.
“He reached out to me a lot during the World Series and the playoffs last year, so he kept in contact and he's a good friend. We like to support each other and help each other in any way we can,” Arozarena said. “He said, 'It's the same game that we played when we were kids, except there's a few more cameras now.'”
Playing on this stage is what Arozarena and García dreamed of for years and what they talked about doing during their time as roommates. The conversations they’ve had this weekend were likely quite a bit different than they were four years ago, but their friendship and support for each other hasn’t changed.
“When we first got here, we were both young. We didn't really know how the system worked,” Arozarena said. “We were always helping each other out, trying to support each other in any way we can. … That helped us reach our goal, which was the Major Leagues. We always just supported each other, still to this day, and now that we're here, we've just got to keep on motivating each other.”