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A couple of neat articles about Charboneau and Dave Garcia:


KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The Kansas City T-Bones kick off their 2009 exhibition season on Monday, May 4 at 7:05 against KCK. Joe Charboneau, 1980 American League Rookie of the Year, will be in attendance and available to sign autographs prior to the game.


Monday will be your first chance to see the 2009 version of the T-Bones as they prepare to defend their Northern League title. The T-Bones have brought back a number of players from an offense that became the first team in league history to drive in 600 runs as a team. Ken Harvey and 2008 Northern League Playoff MOP Jim Fasano are back, along with slugging catcher Craig Hurba and perennial all-star centerfielder Aharon Eggleston.


Brad Correll returns as well for his third season in Kansas City. Correll has seen his contract purchased by major league clubs in each of the last two seasons. He has hit .340 with 21 home runs and 66 RBI in 66 games with the T-Bones in that span.


Former Devil Ray and Kansas City product Damian Rolls joins the T-Bones this season after two seasons with Long Island in the independent Atlantic League. Left-hander Luis Villarreal prepares for his first season with Kansas City as well. Villarreal spent 2008 with Saltillo of the Mexican League and returns to the Northern League for the first time since 2006, when he won the Northern League’s ERA title with a 2.71 mark. Villarreal no-hit the T-Bones as a Joliet JackHammer in 2005.


Charboneau won the American League Rookie of the Year award following a 1980 season in which he hit .289 with 23 home runs and 87 RBI with the Cleveland Indians. The former major league outfielder will be in the MeatLocker to sign autographs prior to the game and will coach first during the contest.


The T-Bones begin their title defense at home against the Winnipeg Goldeyes on May 15. Single-game tickets for the 2009 exhibition and regular season are on sale now and start at just $6. Season tickets, group tickets, mini-plans and All-You-Can-Eat plans are available as well. For more information, call 913-328-5618 or visit www.tbonesbaseball.com





May 3, 2009

A Baseball Elder’s Feel for the Game Endures



SAN DIEGO — Every day, Dave Garcia receives phone calls from former players, coaches and trainers, fellow scouts and others associated with baseball. These calls are a joy for the 88-year-old Garcia, but with the season under way, he has a more vivid baseball pick-me-up. He can go to the ballpark. For Garcia, who lives in San Diego and is a scout of sorts for the Chicago Cubs, that means Petco Park whenever the Padres are home.


“That’s like being able to go to church on Sunday for a Catholic,” said Garcia’s son, also named Dave. “If you were homebound and the priest came to you, it’s different than if you go and walk into the cathedral and see the candles.”


Garcia attends nearly every Padres home game, arriving for night games by 4:30 p.m. and taking a seat adjacent to the visitors’ dugout. While the Padres take batting practice, the visiting team, which is the Los Angeles Dodgers on this April day, begins filling the dugout. Some players and coaches notice Garcia.


Outfielder Juan Pierre was the first to approach the man he calls Super Dave. They met in 2000 when Garcia was a part-time coach for Manager Buddy Bell and Pierre was playing with the Colorado Rockies.


“He’s always had encouraging things to say to me, even when I was a young pup in the game,” Pierre said.


In short order, a host of coaches visited. Bob Schaefer greeted him with, “Hi, Mr. Baseball.” Manny Mota said, “Hello, my white father,” quickly adding that Garcia helped him learn English in 1957 while managing winter ball in Mexico. Jeff Pentland had a lengthy chat with Garcia. So did Mariano Duncan.


Garcia is a tribal elder, passing on tales from another era. He grew up in East St. Louis, Ill., and began his baseball career in August 1937 when he signed a minor league contract for $65 a month with the St. Louis Browns. At the time, Rogers Hornsby was a player-manager with the Browns, who passed into history after the 1953 season. Similarly, most of the minor league stops where Garcia played and managed no longer exist as baseball outposts.


His baseball past is an archaeological dig, unearthing remnants from places like Lake Charles, La., in the Class C Evangeline League; Oshkosh, Wis., in the Class D Wisconsin State League; and Danville, Va., in the Class B Piedmont League.


Garcia coached and managed in the majors with the Cleveland Indians and the Angels. He was also a coach with the Milwaukee Brewers and the Padres, then became a scout.


Save for three years in the Air Force, Garcia’s entire adult life has been spent in baseball. His grandson, Drew Garcia, a second baseman who began his career in the White Sox organization last year, told his grandfather enviously: “I never want to work for a living. I want to be in baseball.”


Bell, who played for Cleveland when Garcia was a coach there in 1975-76, is the director of player development for the Chicago White Sox. When he returned to the organization last year, Bell asked Garcia to come to spring training and help out, as he did when Bell managed the Rockies and the Kansas City Royals.


“His feel for players is like none other,” Bell said. “He can pick out a flaw in somebody’s makeup just as quick as anybody I’ve ever been around. He’s such an honest person without being confrontational.”


Flattered at the offer, Garcia declined, telling Bell that his macular degeneration, a disease that impairs vision in the center of the visual field, would hinder his ability to evaluate players.


This is the second season Garcia is helping the Cubs, namely Gary Hughes, a special assistant to General Manager Jim Hendry. Hughes tells Garcia what the Cubs need — lately it has been a backup infielder — and that is where Garcia fixes his gaze. As best he can, that is.


“I can’t see the ball leave the pitcher’s hand,” Garcia said. “I can’t see where the pitch is when it was hit. But for some reason, when it is hit, I can pick it up.”


Hughes maintains that Garcia still has a knack for spotting talent and gathering information. “I just pick his brain, really,” Hughes said. “We talk about comparisons. He’s way more of a source than he thinks he is.”


He added, “He picks up stuff by accident that people can’t get, because he’s Dave Garcia.”


Garcia said he liked to see the Cardinals and the Padres do well because he is from the St. Louis area and has lived in San Diego since 1961. Asked if it would be meaningful to have a role with the Cubs should they win their first World Series since 1908, Garcia replied, “One thing that would be special is Lou Piniella’s the manager, and he’s a pretty good friend of mine.”


Bell said it was more important to Garcia that Piniella succeed than for the Cubs to win a title.


“There’s just so many people in his life that he’s rooting for,” Bell said, “that he feels almost disloyal if he roots too hard for one team or another.”


Loyalty has defined life on and off the field for the relentlessly upbeat Garcia, who displays none of the these-guys-can’t-play views that shade the judgments of some older scouts. His inspiration for sustaining that outlook? His late wife, Carmen. They were married for more than 52 years when she died 15 years ago.


“In my home, I have 18 pictures of my wife, in every room except the bathroom,” Garcia said. “And I kiss that picture, 18 of them, every morning when I get up and every night when I go to bed. And I tell her something that happened that day.


“I pray every night. The last thing I say in prayers, I swear, I say, ‘Carmen, if there’s a heaven, you’re there, so put in a good word for me.’ That’s the last thing I say every night.”


And the next day? There is baseball, of course, which means there are sage observations to be made about players and more than a few friends to cheer for.





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