By pitching for the Yankees, Jaime Garcia is living his family's dream
Garcia's grandfather passed away when he was 13, but before that, he told Jaime that he'd see him pitching for the pinstripes someday. That notion will come to fruition on Thursday, and when Garcia called his mom this past weekend to let her know he had been traded from the Twins to the Yankees, memory of that prediction made the phone call one for the ages.
"I was very excited," Garcia said Tuesday at his introductory press conference, "and my mom was very emotional. With what my grandfather said…my entire family was touched by that story, and they're very excited for me to have this opportunity."
Garcia had just been traded to Minnesota less than a week earlier, but a quick slide after the deal made the Twins sellers again, and that sent the 31-year-old's world into even more flux; the Braves were on the road when he was dealt to Minnesota and the Twins were in Oakland when he was sent to the Yankees, so the lefty had to channel John Candy's Del Griffith in "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles."
"It was a little shocking, but shocking in a good way," Garcia recalled. "I was on the road when I was traded, and stayed on the road with the Twins, but luckily, they let me have a half-day to go home to Atlanta and pick up some stuff, especially just what I was going to need here. It's been crazy, but at the same time, it's been exciting, and I'm very fortunate and excited to be here."
Garcia now has family helping him take care of final business in Atlanta and get the rest of his belongings to New York, but he didn't have long to be home in his new home; the Yankees headed out on the road after Wednesday afternoon's series finale with the Tigers, and his first start will come in the road grays on Friday.
Ironically enough, that start will come one day after Sonny Gray's first start as a Yankee, that fact ironic because the two were just both in Oakland for that Twins-Athletics series but did not get a chance to commiserate on their chances to become teammates before the trade deadline.
"I knew there was some stuff going on, but I didn't get a chance to talk to Sonny or anyone, because I pitched that first day and then they let me leave the second day," Garcia said. "I think I said this when I was with Minnesota last week, but I really don't pay attention to anything that's out of my control or anything that's going on. I just focus on getting ready for each start and making pitches when it's my time to take the mound, and now that I'm here, I'm focused on (Friday's start)."
He does know, however, what kind of pitcher he'll be following in the rotation this turn through.
"I've watched Sonny pitch a couple times - he pitched against the Cardinals once, and then he pitched against the Braves earlier in the year - and I know he's very good," Garcia said. "I'm excited to be on the same team with him."
And, he's got one other ally in the clubhouse in former Cardinals teammate Matt Holliday, whom he reached out to immediately upon finding out they were about to become teammates again.
"I'm really close with Matt and his family, he's one of my favorite teammates of all-time," Garcia smiled. "We kind of talked about the organization, and how he's felt, and he told me nothing but great things. He said this organization is first-class all the way, and that I'd love the guys and fit in right away. To hear that from him, a guy I highly respect and have a good relationship with, meant a lot."
With the Yankees now having six starters for five spots, there is a chance that Garcia's first start could be his only one, but he's not worried about what happens past Thursday.
"All I know is I'm going to be starting a game here, and I'm 100 percent focused on that start, and giving us the best chance to win that game," he said. "Like I said, I take my deal one start at a time, and don't focus on anything else that's out of my control."
And, regardless of his role, the veteran won't be fazed by the spotlight that comes with pitching for the Yankees, in any capacity, in the midst of a playoff chase.
"I've played for the St. Louis Cardinals and I've been through a lot in my career, and I'm in a good place right now," he said. "I've been around for a little while, and to come here and be a part of this, I'm extremely humbled and excited for the opportunity. I'm ready for it."