Rangers YA senior, junior teams fall just short of title

July 23rd, 2023

Another Nike RBI Southwest Regional Tournament has come and gone, but Sunday marked an exciting first for the Texas Rangers Youth Academy, with both the junior and senior baseball teams competing for the championship.

“Today was an important day for the Youth Academy, especially on the heels of yesterday with all three of our teams, softball, juniors, and seniors, finishing the day 6-0," said Juan Leonel Gárciga, senior director of the Youth Academy and baseball development.

“Our juniors and seniors, for the first time ever, were playing in the Southwest Regional Championship Game. Our juniors were 4-0, our seniors were 3-1 [in pool play], playing good baseball, and it was exciting to have all these athletes on the field on this important day.”

In a pair of close games played at the Rangers Youth Academy, both teams fell short of the title.

A young Rangers Nike RBI senior team faced the Houston Astros Nike RBI team in the final, but the Astros snuffed their six-run sixth-inning comeback, claiming an 8-6 win.

Courtesy of Texas Rangers Youth Academy

“The senior team was a special group. ... It was cool to see the way they gelled, and all 15 guys contributed to the team's success this summer,” said Gárciga, who coached the senior team. “It was a disappointing ending, but what was really special for me was falling down eight-nothing -- a lot of teams pack it in and call it a day, but we battled back and made it a [close] ballgame.

“We had the tying runs on base in the sixth and seventh inning and couldn't quite get it done. I think these young men will learn a lot from the experience this weekend, and that's what we're trying to do -- help them become better young people and better baseball players as well.”

Junior team coach Dash Johnson shared similar sentiments after those Rangers took an early lead but lost, 9-7, after a NOLA Nike RBI fifth-inning rally.

“I think the kids played well all day,” Johnson said. “We had one tough inning that caused us to lose the game, but Santo Salinas threw the ball well. He threw 4 2/3 innings and gave up two runs, so he pitched the ball really well and filled up the zone all day.

“Nicholas Smith came up big-time offensively and had two hits today with four RBIs, and Edwin Chavez was big at the plate as well.”

Courtesy of Texas Rangers Youth Academy

While much of the roster will age out of the junior division next year, Johnson will rely on returners Braylon Hubbard and Maddox Johnson, who will fill key leadership roles.

“At the end of the day, I just want the kids to know that you lose sometimes, but it’s always about how you bounce back,” said Johnson.

Though the results weren’t what the teams and hometown crowd had hoped for, both Rangers baseball teams competed until the final out.

Next year, the Rangers will again look to compete for Southwest Regional Championships as they seek the coveted MLB Nike RBI World Series berth.