Making his pitch
This holiday weekend, Julian Garcia will get to work. The recently drafted Roadrunner pitcher takes major-league aspirations into his minor league start.
By Dan Vaccaro
While you’re making potato salad this Fourth of July weekend, Julian Garcia will be making the most of an opportunity.
The Roadrunners star right-hander was selected in the 10th Round of this month’s 2016 Major League Baseball Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies, becoming the highest drafted player in MSU Denver history. He will take the mound in the minor leagues this weekend, his first step toward making good on a dream that started when he was 5 years old.
“I fell in love with the game watching my father play softball,” Garcia recalled. “Like every little kid, I imagined what it would be like to play in the big leagues, but you never really expect it will happen. So, getting drafted is literally a dream come true.”
Garcia knows he still has work to do. His road to the majors starts this week in short-season Class A ball with the Williamsport Crosscutters. From there, he hopes to climb the ranks of the minor-league system, and ultimately, join the big club.
The journey will not be easy. While 20 Roadrunners have been drafted over the past 50 years, not one has started a major league game. Still, coach Jerrid Oates feels good about Garcia’s chances.
“Why not?” Oates said. “He’s made it this far. It’s certainly a tough road to make it to the bigs. A lot has to go your way. But he has the tools and the mental makeup for the majors.”
Among those tools is a low-90s fastball and a devastating 12-6 curveball that has buckled the knees of many a batter in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference over the last two years. This past season, Garcia struck out a school-record 95 batters and was selected first team All-RMAC. The Colorado-native was named RMAC Pitcher of the Week on four separate occasions and drew the eyes of local scouts, who don’t often focus on Division II schools.
Garcia credits his time at MSU Denver with helping take his game to the next level. The Sports Industry Operations major was a two-position player coming out of high school in Fort Collins, Colorado. He pitched and played the outfield. Redshirted during his first year at the University, he embraced pitching full time and saw immediate results.
By year three, he’d matured into a bona fide ace. With support from Oates and his pitching coach, Mark Laschanzky, he began to approach each batter – and game – with a plan.
“The coaches taught me so much, everything really,” he said. “They gave me an opportunity to be a leader. They taught me to embrace the moment, to know my job, focus and execute.”
So, when Garcia takes the mound this holiday weekend, you can be sure he won’t be thinking about the barbecues he’s missing. He’ll only be thinking about missing bats. That’s his ticket to the big leagues, after all, and he plans to make the most of his opportunity to play America’s beloved pastime.