The nerves have subsided since 40,000 fans at Busch Stadium gave Greg Garcia a standing ovation for his big league debut. The first appearance, the first hit—the rookie infielder for the St. Louis Cardinals has been able to check them off the list and go about settling back into the family business—playing baseball.
Greg represents the third generation of his family to play professional baseball—following his dad and grandfather into the game.
“He’s been a huge influence on my baseball career—helped me practice from the moment I could walk,” said Greg of his father, who coached him all the way up to high school. “I’ve been real fortunate to have him as my coach. Very knowledgeable and was never real hard on me or anything like that. Just a great father—couldn’t ask for a better dad.”
A former first round draft pick of the New York Yankees and minor leaguer, the elder Garcia never forced the game on his son.
“Never put any added pressure on me being his son or anything like that,” shared Greg. “Just told me to go play and have fun. I think that’s when you play your best is when you’re relaxed and just going out there and having fun.”
Dave and Belinda Garcia were in attendance for all three games of the Cardinals last series at Busch Stadium, flying in from San Diego to watch their son in action.
Dave Garcia, Sr. also followed his grandson’s debut.
Born and raised in East St. Louis, Dave Sr. began his baseball career in 1937 when he signed a minor league contract with the St. Louis Browns and eventually saw him reach the big leagues as a coach and then manager with both the Cleveland Indians and then California Angels.
“I’ve had so many opportunities that a lot of kids don’t have,” said Greg. “I thought at a pretty young age I kind of had a good idea I might know a little bit more just because of my opportunities I was given and I just want to try to make the most of them.”
One of the more memorable opportunities came when as a 12 year-old, Greg was in the stands to watch his grandfather—then the bench coach the Colorado Rockies. Manager Buddy Bell brought him down from the seats to serve as the batboy.
“I was like ‘oh my gosh’, so I got to see what a big league clubhouse was like at the age of 12,” recalled Garcia. “I knew from that day—this is what I want to do. It kind of motivated and pushed me.”
“It was such a great learning experience for me and I just tried to soak it all in. I mean, I got to take BP there. I remember taking ground balls with Nefi Perez and I got to hit BP off Goose Gossage—you couldn’t ask for anything else.”
David Bell—son of Buddy and a third generation baseball guy himself, is now the St. Louis Cardinals assistant hitting coach. Small world.
“We actually talked about it the other day,” said Garcia. “Buddy’s been a real good family friend. He played for my grandpa with the Indians—he was part of my grandpa’s ‘Dead-Ender Crew’. It’s just funny how it comes full circle and just a great family the Bells are and really fortunate to have the opportunity.”
And while there was never pressure applied to fall into the family business, one lesson still sticks with Garcia—just be a ballplayer.
“I think that can take you a long way,” stated Garcia. “In today’s game they always talk about tools and hit-power, whatever. But I think at the end of the day if you’re a good ballplayer, you play the game the right way it can take you to some places. So I just try to play the game as hard as I can, play the game right, and trust my ability.”
Greg could be joined by another Garcia in the Majors soon—brother Drew is an infielder for the Triple-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.