St. Louis Cardinals infielder Greg Garcia is a third-generation professional baseball player. His grandfather, Dave, played in the minor leagues, starting with the St. Louis Browns organization, and managed the California Angels and Cleveland Indians. He also had a long coaching career, is now 95 and talks to his grandson frequently from his home in San Diego. Greg Garcia's father, also named Dave, was a first-round pick of the New York Yankees and also played in the minor leagues before retiring young and coaching his three sons.
With Father's Day fast approaching, we caught up with Greg Garcia about what his father and grandfather meant to his career.
Q. What are your first baseball memories with your grandfather?
A. He came to every game. He had his green chair and he would just pull it up by the fence. I always heard him cheering. He would never say anything negative. I could hear his voice when I'm on deck and things like that. Our thing in my family when I was younger, he'd say, "Hey, hit a couple Garcia bullets" for me. We weren't big kids, we weren't home run hitters. We had to hit line drives, you know. It was always fun after a game if I had a couple hits, I could say, 'Hey, I hit a couple Garcia bullets for you,' and he'd start cracking up.
Q. You mentioned before that you had an opportunity to be a bat boy for the Colorado Rockies. How did that come about?
A. It was his last coaching job. He was a bench coach with the Rockies when Buddy Bell was there. I was about 10. I went out there with my little brother, Drew, and we both got to be bat boys. It was cool, because it wasn't expected. I went out there and took batting practice and shagged. I was going back up to my seat and Buddy Bell was like, "Hey Greg, where are you going? You're bat boy for this whole series.” I was like, "Oh my god." I sprinted back to the little locker that I had and put on all my stuff. It was awesome. I was really lucky to see a major league clubhouse at that age. I was like, "That's what I want to do."
Q. Tell me about your dad's baseball career and his impact on yours.
A. He was my coach my whole life. He worked a 9-to-5 and then he'd always throw BP to us and stuff. His career was a little tougher because when he was coming up, my grandpa was still managing the Indians. So he kind of got labeled like he got it because of my grandpa. He went to Arizona but then came home because he wanted to get drafted. He was a first-rounder with the Yankees and got to high-A. It was tough for him. I don't think his coaches were very favorable toward him. It kind of ruined the game for him a little bit. That's something he's passed on to all his kids. Physically, people might be bigger and stronger than you, but don't let them beat you mentally. In baseball, that's half the battle. He thinks he had to go through that to help me and my brother succeed.
Q. Your brother, Drew, played all the way up to Triple-A. How is he doing?
A. He just retired. I'm so proud of him, too. He had a great career. He's actually working for my dad, who started his own insurance company. He's an amazing hard worker. His business is doing great and my brother likes it. It's competitive. So it's cool.
Q. After your dad had that difficult experience in pro ball, how did he avoid being bitter and having it spill over to your experience with the game?
A. Ever since I was little, his message was always not to let somebody beat you mentally or tell you you can't do something. He would just put that in our brains. It wasn't just for baseball. I mean, he didn't know I was going to play major league baseball. In life, you don't want anyone to beat you mentally. I'm so thankful for him doing that and not being bitter.
Q. You are the first in your family to reach the major leagues as a player. What did that mean to your grandfather?
A. I was so proud. It really did mean a lot to me to be able to call him and tell him that. We all believe as a family, though, that my grandfather could have played in the big leagues. He was in the Air Force during World War II and he kind of blew out his knee. That was the downslope of his career. But if you go back and look at his numbers -- one year he won the Triple Crown in one league -- he was an unbelievable player. Different time, different circumstances. He was really proud of me.
Q. What about your dad? What was his reaction when you got called up?
A. That one was fun. He spent so many hours with all of us practicing. The thing about me and Drew and my oldest brother, Aaron, is we were never the biggest kids. We were good players, but we were never the best player on the team. We had to work so hard, and he just stuck with us and never let us give up our dreams. I'm just so thankful for him and everything he did.
Q. I know your head was probably spinning, but do you remember anything he said to you when he learned you were going to the big leagues?
A. I think he said a few curse words like, "Are you kidding me?" It was just a proud moment for him, and I think we both just thought about all the hard work. We almost just took a second to thank everyone. I think if you asked anyone in this clubhouse, it's not just one person.
Q. Your grandfather grew up in East St. Louis, Illinois. What did he say when he found out you were going to be a Cardinal?
A. Just from being in baseball his whole life, he knew this was the top organization. They do it right over here. He knew I was going to get some good teaching. It was amazing to me when I first got drafted. I knew a lot of people knew my grandfather, but every coach we had was like, "Hey, how's your grandpa doing" or, "Hey, he helped me out with this." I've never heard anyone say anything bad about my grandfather. I'm proud to be his grandson. It means a lot to me to be Dave Garcia's grandson. We take a lot of pride in our name.