The baseball diamond, to Eudor Garcia — the Mets’ fourth round pick in the 2014 draft — is a special place.
“It’s amazing out here. It’s unreal,” he told MetsMinorLeagueBlog before a game at Hunter Wright Stadium.
This is a young man who enjoys being a professional baseball player. His favorite part is still the very beginning of every game.
“The field looks all clean. You look back at the stands, there’s people there. You run out of the dugout onto the field,” he said, sounding almost wistful about an activity he now does six times a week.
Garcia did not begin playing baseball until he was 10 years old and did not play organized baseball — little league, where he was almost the last guy on the roster — until he was 11.
“When I first started playing baseball, I was a benchwarmer,” he said. “I was one of those kids where I would get one or two at-bats.”
Practice — lots of it — was the main thing that took Garcia from benchwarmer to professional baseball player.
“Once I started practicing daily, and getting more into it, that’s when I developed more strength in my arms and my bat speed.” Garcia’s said.
Eudor’s father, who was an amateur boxer, would put his son through his routine in the park, nearly daily.
“There were times where I was like, ‘Dad, I’m already tired. I want a break.’ But I knew I couldn’t say that until I knew I was going to make it all the way here [to professional baseball],” Garcia said.
There was a shorter term payoff though. Every summer in high school, Garcia joined his father’s men’s league team, a group Garcia says played simply “for the love of the game.”
Garcia, who played his college ball at his hometown El Paso Community College, did not wait long to begin his professional career after the draft. He signed quickly – for $305,000, or $148,600 under the recommended slot amount for the Mets’ fourth-round pick. At the time he was drafted, Baseball America praised his swing, writing, that he had, “good timing as the best bat in the Lone Star State this year. … He’s strong and quiet in the batter’s box with little pre-swing movement. His swing is short, strong and powerful, and he has shown at least plus power and plus hitting ability. ”
In 38 games with the Kingsport Mets, Garcia has hit .281/.347/.348 with seven extra-base hits and very few strikeouts (17). Garcia has struck out in just 11.3 percent of his professional at-bats while walking in 6.7 percent of them. He has hit for relatively little power (.067 Isolated slugging and extra base hits in 4.7 percent of his plate appearances).
Garcia is listed at 6’1″ and 215 pounds. He has strength in his thick body, but it has not translated into power in games yet. Still, K-Mets hitting coach Yunir Garcia likes what he sees from Garcia,
“He’s a strong boy. He has batspeed. He doesn’t load too much,” the coach said.
All the same, Garcia’s swing is unusual looking and early on with Kingsport, he struggled with his timing. As illustrated in this video, he begins nearly straight up and down, with his hands low. His hands barely move up and back – it is a very small load – just as he begins a stride forward. This is a version of the “walk-away” technique (as my explained by my old friend Mike Newman now of Rotoscouting.com). Where Garcia got himself in trouble early this season was with a tardy stride that forced him to rush his hands and and left him off-balance.
His hitting coach noticed.
“You need separation with your foot down, and rhythm with your hands. We need to be relaxed and short to the ball,” Yunir Garcia said.
Eudor, he noticed early in the season, tried to cheat with his hands by dropping them.
“Sometimes he was late on fastballs, because he goes under and [was] late,” the coach said. By ‘going under,’ Eudor had both created a longer swing path, and introduced a larger uppercut in his hack.
Garcia is used to the criticism that his swing looks different, but it’s how he’s always done it.
“I always get that: that my swing looks different, and I don’t really load,” he told MMiLB. “I don’t go back. I always get it. I’ve been trying to work on it, and stay consistent with it.”
By starting his hands just a little higher, and fine tuning the timing on his stride (a common issue for young players), Garcia will be more prepared for higher-level pitching and give himself a chance to turn his strength into usable game power.
So, what’s the difference between professional baseball and college baseball for Garcia?
“You just work a lot more than in school,” he said.
For a guy who worked himself up from a spot on the bench in little league, to a baseball paycheck, that should be something he can get used to.
He’s also trying to heed the advice of Mets’ Infield Coordinator Kevin Morgan along the way. Just before heading out to Kingsport, Morgan told Garcia, that he expected to see him in the big leagues in three or four years, but for now, “We’ve got time. Just have fun and go out and enjoy it.”
Photo Credit: Allen Greene Photography