Carlos Garcia's third season as a major-league coach hit a huge detour with Seattle Mariners manager Mike Hargrove's sudden resignation July 1. And Garcia, the former Buffalo Bisons star and hitting coach who lives in Lancaster in the offseason, said he's still stunned by Hargrove's departure.
It was Hargrove who gave Garcia his first big-league coaching job in 2005 and made him Seattle's third-base coach last season.
"I found out he was leaving the night before. He met with us and shared his concerns," Garcia said before a recent game against the Oakland Athletics. "It was like, 'Wow, what happened?' The last two years we were fighting to put this thing together and turn it around. All of a sudden, we've won seven in a row and we're 12 games over .500, right where we want to be, and he decided to step down?
"But we respected his decision. He's been in the game so long and at some point everybody is thinking about retirement. And the travel is a lot worse from Seattle. I just had no idea. He wasn't giving me any indication he wanted to do something like that. I guess things build up and build up and build up and you come to the realization you only have one life to live."
Garcia was the hitting coach on the Bisons' 2004 Governors' Cup champions, directing an offense that had a higher batting average and scored more runs than any International League team of the last 50 years. Hargrove spent some time in Buffalo that season as a special consultant for the Cleveland Indians and took note of Garcia's work.
"I've been with Mike the last three years and he gave me the opportunity to be a big-league coach so it's hard for me," Garcia said. "I really appreciated that and I appreciate him as a person. We lived through the tough times and he decided it was time to travel around with his family, see his kid playing ball. I don't blame him for that.
"I was a little insecure when I got the job but he just told me to go out there and not be intimidated by anybody and show what you learned in those years playing and those years you were coaching in Buffalo. He really helped me out."
Bench coach John McLaren has taken over from Hargrove and the Mariners are just 2 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Angels in the AL West and 1 1/2 out in the wild-card hunt.
"John has been with us all year," Garcia said. "It's not like they brought in somebody new. He's a very good communicator and he's handled things real well, making sure everybody stayed focused and doing what they were doing. Mike really trusted John and that was a huge plus to help the players deal with a new leader."
Garcia's wife and three children stay with him in Seattle in the summer but come back home in late August before the school year begins in Lancaster. Then they see him only when the Mariners come close by, such as trips to Cleveland and Toronto. Garcia is hoping he gets to bring them to some October playoff games as Seattle is gunning for its first postseason berth since 2001.
"We're in the race. It's great," he said. "If you had told me at the beginning of the year we would be at this point, I would have told you I don't know. But we knew the pitching was there. We've just got to stay consistent with our offense. We have 14 games left with the Angels. We believe we can do it."