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High school sports star back in Washington living the dream of pro baseball

Dust Devils manager Mike McCoy previews 2019 season

Manager Mike McCoy of the Tri-City Dust Devils previews the team's players for the 2019 Northwest League baseball season.
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Manager Mike McCoy of the Tri-City Dust Devils previews the team's players for the 2019 Northwest League baseball season.

On Monday night, David Garza Jr., looked into the stands at Gesa Stadium and saw home.

Garza, a member of the Hillsboro Hops, saw plenty of friends and family from Othello, about 50 miles north of the Tri-Cities.

In fact, the Tri-City Dust Devils front office counted 183 Othello residents in attendance.

“A travel team from Othello (the O-Town Bombers) was here for opening night, they went out on the field with the Dust Devils,” said Garza, 24. “I got to see some familiar faces. My old high school coach. A couple of my youth coaches.”

Unfortunately, it’s wasn’t Garza’s turn to play. He did, however, hit a double and drive in a run the next night, on Tuesday, to help the visiting Hops beat the Dust Devils 5-4.

That’s the way baseball is: a roller coaster ride from night to night.

It’s been Garza’s life the past six years, ever since he graduated from Othello High School in 2013.

And if you’d have asked him 10 years ago which sport he would love to keep playing, he probably would have answered something besides baseball.

“At first it was football and basketball. Baseball at first was slow to me,” he said. “My senior year (at Othello), I was contemplating going somewhere to play both football and baseball.”

Garza was a three-sport athlete at Othello who lettered 11 times (four each in baseball and basketball, three times in football).

But in a football playoff game against Prosser in November of 2012, he injured his knee, and a lot of opportunities faded away.

The Edmonds Community College baseball program grabbed him, and he redshirted that first season of 2014 as he rehabbed the knee.

Garza played the next season at Edmonds as a redshirt freshman, and did well enough that Tennessee Tech signed him.

He had three very productive seasons for the Golden Eagles, compiling a .300 career batting average (214 for 713) with 24 home runs and 137 RBIs.

More important, he helped the Golden Eagles to a 125-57 win-loss record over those three seasons.

“My junior year we set a team record for wins with 41,” he said. “Last year, we knew we had a lot of seniors coming back. We went 53-12 and had a 28-game win streak. We had a deep run in the postseason, and we were one win away from going to the College World Series.”

And pro scouts noticed him.

The Arizona Diamondbacks took Garza late in the 2018 MLB Draft, calling his name in the 38th round.

Garza may be just the second Othello resident to be drafted.

Pitcher Wade Parrish was the first, going to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1999.

“He reached out to me after I was drafted,” said Garza. “He talked to me about what I could do.”

What Garza did was report to the Arizona League, a rookie league, last June, and he put up some good numbers.

Last season he hit .307, had two home runs and 26 RBIs in 38 games for the Arizona League D-Backs. That was good enough to get a call-up to Hillsboro for the final week of the 2018 Northwest League season. Garza played in three games, went 3-for-10, had a homer and three RBIs.

“Last season, with my college season finishing and coming off that, things felt good,” Garza said. “I got to Arizona ready to go. Combined with what the instructors were teaching me with what I’d learned in college, things felt good.”

But remember, baseball can be a roller coaster ride.

The Diamondbacks started Garza out this year at Kane County of the Midwest League, where he struggled a bit. In nine games, he batted .161 with three RBIs.

Two weeks in, he hurt his throwing elbow.

Arizona sent Garza to extended spring training, where he worked out each day before getting moved back to Hillsboro last week to open the Northwest League season.

He’s 1-for-11 in three games for the Hops and has two RBIs.

Normally a shortstop or second baseman in college and in rookie ball, he’s been learning first base.

“It’s different. It’s a tough position. But my athleticism helps me,” he said. “And the organization is amazing.”

So he’s adjusting to the new position, among other things.

“There are a lot of adjustments,” Garza said. “For one, the schedule. This is your job; you have 75 games or so. Every day you’re learning how to manage each game. You try to be as consistent as possible, and learn the fundamentals. Mentally, every day you’ve gotta be ready to come in.”

It can be a long grind, playing so many games in such a short amount of time.

“You do what you need to do to recover,” he said. “I think you just need to understand the routine. On a road trip, your legs are gonna be heavy on certain days when you get off the bus.”

Getting paid to play baseball sounds glamorous, and to many people it is.

You have to have persistence, doing many things the same, day after day. It might seem to get boring.

But to Garza, it’s not.

“The game teaches you so much,” he said. “How to be consistent. How to put in some good work. The game is tough. At this level you have to celebrate your successes, and you have to get through your failures. The game has taught me a lot.

“And it’s a game that I’m blessed to play.”

NOTES: The Dust Devils are off to a bit of a slow start with a 1-4 record. After losing to Everett 5-0 and then 7-3, Tri-City rebounded on Sunday with a 6-2 win over the AquaSox. The Dust Devils have dropped their first two games against the Hops, 8-1 and 5-4. … It’s early – the Northwest League season isn’t even a week old – but the Dust Devils’ Matthew Acosta and Nick Gatewood are among the top 10 in batting average. Acosta is hitting .429 (6 for 14), and Gatewood is batting .333 (4 for 12). Gatewood and teammate Jordy Bailey are among league RBI leaders with four each. … Tri-City pitcher Tom Coletti is the league leader right now with nine strikeouts. … Tri-City has added former UCLA third baseman Jack Stronach to its roster. Stronach, the San Diego Padres’ 21st-round pick in last month’s draft, signed his contract on Tuesday and reported the same day. … The Hops and Dust Devils played Wednesday night, and meet Thursday at Gesa Stadium for the final game of the four-game series. Tri-City then embarks on a seven-game road trip starting Friday, with four games at Eugene and three more in Spokane.

Earl Barden Classic is Saturday

The 25th annual East-West Earl Barden All-State Football Classic is set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Zaepfel Stadium in Yakima.

The game features the top small-school (classes 2A, 1A, 2B and 1B) graduating seniors from around the state.

The players all reported on Tuesday and will spend the rest of the week practicing up until Saturday.

The Mid-Columbia will have five players representing the East squad: wide receiver/defensive back Angel Farias of Royal, running back/linebacker Alonso Hernandez of Royal, quarterback/safety Sawyer Jenks of Royal, wide receiver/defensive back Mason Knode of Liberty Christian, and offensive lineman/defensive lineman Leo Schroeder of Tri-Cities Prep.

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