Few can pitch in baseball. Fewer can pitch collegiately, and only the select elite can call themselves a professional baseball pitcher. Julian Garcia is one of these elite.
Garcia is a former MSU Denver baseball player who holds the school record for strikeouts with 95 in a season. In 2016, he got to experience every young baseball player’s dream.
“The Phillies call me and say, ‘Hey man, you’re definitely going in the 10th round. Get your phone ready, call whoever you need to call, be around with everybody, but your name’s coming on the board,’” Garcia said.
It was a happy moment for him, a proud moment for his teammates and coaches and an emotional moment for his family members.
“It was cool to hear my Dad kind of get choked up and shed a tear because we’ve worked so hard and he’s helped me through so much,” Garcia said.
His father Joe wasn’t the only one feeling pride. Jerrid Oates, the head coach of MSU Denver’s baseball team, told Roadrunners Athletics after the pick how proud he was of the deserving Garcia.
“We are proud of Julian. Since he joined our program, he has been a first class kid with an amazing work ethic on the field,” Oates said. “He has worked extremely hard to get to this point in his career. We know he will do great things at the next level.”
Garcia didn’t have long to enjoy his watershed moment. After flying out to Philadelphia, watching a couple Phillies games at Citizens Bank Park and signing his contract, he was jettisoned out to Clearwater, Florida to begin his professional career with the Phillies’ minor league affiliates.
“Right after you get o that plane, man, you’re a minor leaguer,” Garcia said. “It’s cool, you were treated like a god, kind of like, ‘OK you just got drafted,’ this and that, but then you go right to the minor leagues. You’re part of the system now.”
After spending five days training in minicamp with the rest of the rookies, Garcia was sent to Williamsport, Pennsylvania to play with the Class A short-season Crosscutters. While training and playing took up most of Garcia’s time, he noticed the difference between the city lifestyle he’d grown accustomed to and the new, slower pace of the smaller Williamsport.
“It was definitely different man. From being in the city for the last four years, and Fort Collins is a big area now, and so seeing all that and then going to Williamsport, it’s like this little tiny town that’s known for its history,” Garcia said. “You get into that little area and you’re like, ‘ is is weird. I don’t see the city.’ I mean the city was nice, but way different than the fast and traffic in Denver, so it was really weird for me.”
Even though Garcia was accustomed to the city, the strict schedule that the organization precluded him from noticing the differences.
“We weren’t even in the city that much. My schedule was to go to the field at two, we’d practice all day until seven, play a game, go home at like midnight and sleep until noon or one,” Garcia said.
As far as how Division II baseball prepared him for the professional ranks, Garcia dutifully balked at the notion that Division II may not do as good of a job as Division I programs.
“The times that I’ve had here at Metro and the players that we have on this team, they are definitely high caliber players,” Garcia said. “Just because it says Division II or Division I doesn’t mean that that’s their level of play. That’s just where the school that gave you the scholarship is. So you see Division II guys, you see junior college guys up at that level. The Division II talent that I faced is just as good. Division I just gets more publicity.”
When it comes to his career, Garcia, who finished his first professional season with 40 strikeouts in 30 innings, wants the next step to be making the jump from short-season play to the low-A club Lakewood Blue Claws after spring training ends.
“Lakewood is the goal right now. I mean not the complete goal obviously, but that’s where I see myself next year,” he said.
Garcia is no dunce. He understands that he has to plan for his life after baseball, whenever that may come. He is still taking classes for his sports management degree at MSU Denver, with the Phillies footing the bill. However, he wants baseball to remain in his life.
“I really want to run a facility for baseball,” he said. “It takes a little bit of time and effort to find the right place, but I think Colorado’s growing in baseball and I really want to move it up even more.”
While professional training may be in his distant future, Garcia’s immediate focus is on spring training, where he hopes to make an impression on his coaches after giving his arm time to rest after a collegiate season immediately followed by a professional season. He sets out to make his case on March 2nd.