June 19, 2012
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Every young kid's dream has come true for former Lobo softball player Jessica Garcia--she just signed a contract to play with the Akron Racers of National Pro Fastpitch.
The 2012 National Fastpitch Coaches Association third team and 2012 Easton Fastpitch second team all-american was out shopping Monday afternoon with a friend when her cell phone started going crazy.
"I looked at my phone and it was blowing up," she said. "I got a text message from Angus saying, 'The Akron owner is about to call you, they want to fly you out.' Ten minutes later, the owner called and asked me if I was still interested in playing with the Racers. I said I was."
The Lobo standout retells it calmly, but when it actually happened Garcia admits she was ecstatic.
"We were in the parking lot and I yelled," she said. "My friend got a little embarrassed and told me to get in the car."
Garcia received the contract later that day, signed it and scanned it and sent it back and just like that, her childhood dream was a reality.
"You never think you'll actually get that call...it's pretty cool," she said. "It's surreal."
After getting such a 'cool' phone call, Garcia decided to pay it forward and make a phone call of her own. She dialed her dad.
"I got a hold of him and said, 'Well dad, it looks like you won't be seeing me this summer,'" she said. "He knew exactly what I meant and told me he was so proud of me.
"My grandparents were there, too, so I talked to my grandpa. It's always been his dream for one of us to go pro--my dad had a chance but he ended up getting hurt. My grandpa was the one who always worked with me when I was little. He'd hit me ground balls and work with me. When I told him he couldn't believe it and when I told my grandma, she started crying."
The Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., native leaves on Wednesday morning and will be with Akron through the end of August. She will return to UNM to resume her studies in the fall.
The NPF's season opened June 2 and regular-season play will continue through August 19, concluding with the NPF Championship Series Aug. 23-26 at Rosemont Stadium, home of the Chicago Bandits.
According to the organization's Web site, the NPF is headquartered in Nashville, Tenn., and has been in operation since 1997 under the names of Women's Pro Fastpitch (WPF) and Women's Pro Softball League (WPSL). The league was created to provide,"...elite female fastpitch players the opportunity to pursue a professional career in their chose sport." NPF is the Official Development Partner of Major League Baseball in the category of women's fastpitch softball since 2002.
The league currently features four teams: Akron Racers, Chicago Bandits, USSSA Florida Pride and Carolina Diamonds.
Garcia has never been to Ohio and has never been to an NPF game--however, she was part of the Lobo team that took on Cat Osterman and the NPF All-Stars at Lobo Field on Nov. 6, 2010. The All-Stars blanked the 'Bos 11-0, but Garcia was one of four UNM players to get a hit in the contest. It is her abilities at the plate that she anticipates will help her establish herself in the league.
While her surroundings will be completely foreign, Garcia does know one other player on the 21-athlete roster. Garcia played club ball in Arizona with Alicia Herron, a 2012 draftee who played at Ohio State. Herron has seen action in six of the Racers' eight contests.
Garcia says she's been feeling a range of emotions in the past 24 hours--excitement, happiness and nervousness. She completed her last workout at Lobo Field on Tuesday morning with coaches Lyndsey Angus and Christi Musser--Garcia has kept in softball shape since the conclusion of the Lobos' season.
"They each gave me a hug and told me how proud of me they are," Garcia said.
And with that, the former Lobo is off to live out her dream.
Garcia's final season of donning the Cherry and Silver was one for the record books. In addition to setting a new single-season school record with her 24 homers, Garcia also finished with a second-place rank in MW history for single-season long balls.
Garcia, a native of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., had seven games in which she hit 1.000 (vs. Idaho State on Feb. 11, 4-for-4; vs. Texas Tech on March 12, 3-for-3; vs. Weber State on March 25, 2-for-2; vs. New Mexico State on April 10, 2-for-2; vs. Boise State on April 29, 4-for-4; vs. UTEP on May 1, 3-for-3; and vs. UNLV on May 4, 3-for-3). She shattered UNM's single-season records for hits (81 - the previous record was 70, set by Van Hooydonk in 1997), runs batted in (69 - previous record was 54, set by Danielle Cassara in 1999), slugging percentage (.917 - previous was .801 Garcia set in 2011), and total bases (166 - previous record was 120, set in 1999 by Cassara).
Garcia also broke the program's single-season record for runners thrown out, nabbing 21 runners en route to also setting a new career record for the same category. She threw out 64 runners in her four seasons at UNM. The previous single-season record was 20 (which Garcia tied in 2011), set by Liz Young in 2006. The previous career record was 39, which Garcia tied toward the end of her junior season and was originally set by Amy Minick in 1986-89.
Garcia is leaving ranked in a few other New Mexico career categories - hits (fifth, 193), RBIs (second, 133), and total bases (second, 346).