Karim Garcia Interview: Working My Way Back to the Big Leagues – From Mexico With Baseball Love
Monday May 21st, 2012
MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen: Today we are in for a treat folks. One of my all-time baseball faves is our feature on the Reports. The man needs no introduction in baseball circles. He can flat-out play the game. Karim Garcia. The man has played ball in New York. Los Angeles. Cleveland. Arizona. Korea. Japan. Mexico. World Baseball Classic. The man has done it all…and seen it all. After making his major league debut with the Dodgers as a raw 19-year old, Karim went on to play for 7 MLB teams over 10 seasons. His best statistical season came in 2002, as Karim belted 16 home runs playing mostly for the Indians, with a .297 AVG and .574 SLG. The fact that he was able to produce those numbers in only 53 games played shows his strong hitting potential. Watching him play, it was always obvious that Karim Garcia could hit. He just needed the opportunity to play.
Therein lies the unfairness of baseball. It can be a cruel and unforgiving sport. Karim played 113 games with the Diamondbacks in 1998 and 96 games with the Tigers the following season. Despite his hitting abilities, Major League Baseball never game him the opportunity to play a full season. To show what he can do with a full year’s worth of at-bats. Few can understand how difficult it can be to play sparingly off the bench unless you have done it. Karim Garcia has done it. He did it for a decade in the show. Despite knowing he could star and not receiving that chance- he persevered. Karim Garcia came back to the big leagues, with different teams year after year, to prove himself. To play the game he loves and to play the only way he knows how. Hard. When the opportunities in North America did not present themselves, Karim Garcia did not give up. Far from it. Over the last 8 years, Karim Garcia has been travelling the globe to play baseball. Korea. Japan. His native Mexico. Wherever he can find a high level of competition and the opportunity to play ball, Karim has taken it. He doesn’t play for the money. He doesn’t play for the glory. Karim Garcia is playing ball for the simple love of the sport.
Karim’s glory moments came as part of the recent 2009 World Baseball Classic. The man was playing in the tournament like his hair was on fire. The intensity. The passion. Every big game. Every big at-bat. If it involved team Mexico, you knew that Karim Garcia was involved. The undisputed leader for his country, Karim showed at the plate and the field that the magic burned strongly within him. Yet despite a strong WBC showing, the majors did not come calling. With the 2012 season upon us, I see many MLB teams missing the intangibles. The veteran presence. The key bat off the bench. Those types of players are the difference between a contender and a champion. What does the modern game need you ask? More players like Karim Garcia.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Karim, as he currently plays in the Mexican league. Karim is playing baseball for one reason, and one reason only. To return to the show. To return to where he started…and where he belongs. It is impossible to turn back the hands of time and unfortunately Karim will never get back the chance to play full-time in his 20’s in the majors. But Karim is not looking to change the past. He has no regrets. The Karim I spoke to is only looking to the future. Before his playing career is done and he looks towards his next mission of managing, he wants to make it back to North America. Back to playing Major League Baseball. Karim is ready to help a team to a championship. With all of years and experiences in the game, that chance should be there. It needs to be there. Karim intends to make it happen.
As part of our conversation, Karim and I discussed all aspects of his career. From making his MLB debut, to the trades, baseball travels, WBC and his future. Just like his play on the field, Karim was straight in the interview. Not holding back. Giving it all. Giving the straight goods. The Karim Garcia I spoke to was just like the one I watch on the baseball field. Passionate. Determined. Intense. Now ready to return to North America, I am proud to present my interview with Karim Garcia. Get ready to see the sides of Karim Garcia that you may have never seen. Might have never known. You know the name and the player. Now get ready to meet the man. The man who loves the game of baseball with every ounce of his being. Karim Garcia is today’s featured interview on MLB reports:
Karim Garcia. It is an honor to be speaking to you today. Where are you currently playing this season?
I am playing in Monterrey, Mexico this year. Baseball Fans can follow the league: www.lmb.com.mx. My team is Sultanes de Monterrey.
You recently turned 36 and have played for 7 MLB teams over your career. You could hang up your cleats- yet you are still on the field and playing harder than ever. What motivates you to stay on the field?
I think that I can still help teams to reach their goals. My motivation is my family. My kids, they love to see me play and I feel like I am still 25.
You were born and raised in Mexico. You have played baseball in the Mexican leagues and represented your country in the World Baseball Classic. Describe to us the differences between baseball in North America and back home.
I think baseball in latin countries: you feel it in your blood. You burn to play all out everyday. Unfortunately, MLB is more like a business now these days.
You have also played baseball in Japan and Korea. Tell us about those experiences.
Playing in Japan was little different for me. I was trying to adjust to them. In Korea, it was like I was playing back home. I enjoyed my time there: the fans and the team. My manager was Jerry Royster. He helped me a lot when I was in Korea. I found that Koreans enjoy everything they do, just like Mexicans we do too.
I remember when you were coming up with the Dodgers back in the day. Is there anything you would have done differently in your younger days?
The only think I would have changed was to listen more to my coach and not be so stubborn about my abilities to play the game.
A great baseball trivia note- you were one of the players drafted in the expansion draft by the Diamondbacks. What was it like to leave the Dodgers system and to join a brand new team that had never played before?
It was difficult because grow up in the Dodgers system. But it was a great opportunity for me to play every day in the majors.
In 1999, you were traded to the Tigers for Luis Gonzalez. Gonzo ended up being one of the most popular players in Dbacks history. Do you get asked about that trade often?
Not very often because of what happened in the 2003 playoffs. People remember that more.
You really began to blossom in 2001/2002, starting with the Indians. At 26 years of age- what was the secret of your success? Did you do anything differently in Cleveland that started your growth as a player?
Well they really just let me play with no pressure. They just told me to enjoy myself playing the game. I am very thankful to the Cleveland organization for the fact that they treated me like family.
You ended up playing for multiple MLB teams, including the Yankees, Orioles and Mets. What were your favorite moments during your MLB career? Do you have a particular team that you always consider “your team”?
The moment I enjoyed the most is playing for the Yankees in the World Series back in 2003. As to my favorite team, that is difficult. I still cheer for every player that I ever played with and hope they do really well.
Even though you had a long career spanning ten years in the big leagues, do you feel like you ever truly got an opportunity to show what you could do on the field? I always felt that if you had more playing time- your numbers would have been off the charts. What are your thoughts?
I think when Cleveland give me the opportunity to play every day in 2002, I showed what I really can do when given the chance to play every day.
One of my fave Karim Garcia moments was watching you represent Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. Tell me about the WBC experience. What did it mean to you to put on the green jerseys and represent your nation? Will we be seeing you in the 2013 edition?
Every time I put on my country’s jersey, it is a unique feeling because I am representing my country. The only way to do so is playing your best every time they put you in the line-up. I hope that I can go to the next WBC. I know that I can help with my experience. So now I just have to wait and see what the manager for my country says.
Do you still keep in touch with ex-teammates? Who are your closest friends from the game?
I keep in touch more with the guys in Korea where I have played the last 4 years. A lot of the guys I played with have retired. You have to remember – I started in MLB when I was 19. So many of those guys were 5 or 6 years older than me at that time.
You expressed to me during our talks that you are looking to come back to North America and play again the big leagues. What do you need to do to make that dream happen? Have you received calls from MLB teams?
All I need is an opportunity. I am ready to come back. I can help a major league team as a pinch hitter or outfielder. My arm still as strong as it was, so all I need is for a team to just give me a chance. So far, no major league team has said anything this year. With my experience, let’s face it. I will be a cheap player for them (MLB teams) and a left-handed hitter off the bench if a team needs one.
Once you decide one day to retire from the game, what are your plans? Will you be staying in the game- perhaps coaching or broadcasting?
I would like to become a manager at some point. Probably to start in Mexico and work my way up- to see how far I can get.
If you could send one message to all of the baseball fans, what would it be?
Thank you for your support. I still get mail from fans all over the world. Not only in the States, but the countries that I have played for. My way to pay them back is to play as hard as I can every day!
Thank you for joining us today Karim. We wish you the best of luck on your baseball journey. Personally, I can’t wait to see you back in a major league uniform!
***A special thank you to Karim Garcia for joining us all the way from Mexico for this article. You can follow Karim on Twitter (@KarimGarcia95). Please be sure to wish Karim well on the season and let him know that you are cheering him. Most importantly, make sure you tell him that MLB reports sent ya! Good luck on the season Karim and your return to the big leagues***
Jonathan Hacohen is the Founder & Lead Baseball Columnist for MLB reports: You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)
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Posted on May 21, 2012, in Interviews with MLB Stars and tagged baseball, cleveland indians, japan baseball, karim garcia, korea baseball, los angeles dodgers, mexican league, mexico, mlb, new york yankees, sultanes de monterrey, wbc, world baseball classic. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.