Louisville’s own Tristin Garcia brings consistent bat back to his home state

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Provided by Chelsea Baublitz

Alcon State’s Tristin Garcia (21) transferred to the Hill for the 2022 baseball season. Garcia attended Male High School in Louisville and had the third-best batting average in the nation this year (.445).

Wyatt Sparkman, Football reporter

Alcorn State infielder Tristin Garcia announced his intent to transfer to the Hill back in June. Garcia hit .445 across the 2021 season, good for the third-highest batting average in the nation. 

Garcia came into the season sizzling, beginning the campaign with an eight-game hit streak. He batted in 16 runs while hitting .490 during that stretch. Garcia collected 27 RBIs, earned First Team All-SWAC honors and became the 37th member of Alcorn State’s 100+ Hit Club on April 17, 2021.

“I’ve been around college baseball for over 20 years and he’s by far one of the purest hitters that I’ve seen come along,” former Alcorn State head coach Bretton Richardson said.

The Early Years

Growing up in Louisville, Garcia played baseball and wrestled at a young age. His grandfather, Manuel Garcia, played professional baseball in Mexico. Garcia said he looked up to both MLB Hall of Fame catcher Iván Rodríguez and his father. 

Garcia fell in love with the game of baseball from an early age due to his grandfather’s connections to the sport. (Provided by Tristin Garcia)

“My grandpa was a big-time baseball player in Mexico and leagues around there, so my dad kind of followed him around,” Garcia said. “I ended up getting into baseball with him and ever since I was in middle school me and my dad were practicing almost every day. Then, he put me in wrestling and that helped too.” 

Garcia said wrestling kept him in shape and helped him build muscle, but baseball was always the primary focus.

Garcia’s parents wanted him to go to Jefferson County Traditional Middle School because they preferred traditional programs. Garcia played baseball at JCTMS, making it to the state championship in his last season there. 

“We played Noe Middle [School], who we previously beat 15-0,” Garcia said. “We ended up losing 5-0 I believe. We were hitting the ball far, but one of the stars, John Ullom, hit like three balls that were caught on the warning track at Jim Patterson Stadium, which was a huge field for eighth graders. On a normal field, they would’ve been long gone.” 

Fast Times at Male High

JCTMS feeds into traditional high schools like Male and Butler. Garcia chose Male because of its baseball and wrestling programs. He played under two coaches before Jake Fiorella took over as head coach in 2018, his senior season.  

“Garcia was amazing to coach in high school,” Fiorella shared via email. “He possesses everything a coach seeks in his players: loyalty, grit, and obviously a great deal of natural ability. He was always willing to do whatever the team needed him to do, including changing positions.”

That 2018 season was the best campaign Male had during Garcia’s time as a Bulldog. The program finished with a 22-8 record and Garcia finished the season batting .301 with 18 RBIs and 26 runs scored.

The Bulldogs won their first four games to begin 2018, and Male’s record stood at 5-4 just after spring break. Male was down 4-3 in the last inning facing Meade County, but Garcia supplied the heroics that day.

“Garcia was batting in the last inning with two outs and the bases loaded,” Fiorella said. “He hit a two-run single up the middle to give us the 5-4 lead and pushed us to victory. After that game, we won 16 of 17 games to end the season. Ultimately, we lost in the regional championship game to the eventual state champion [Saint Xavier]. It wasn’t the best ending to a season, but that group of seniors, led by Garcia, took us on an incredible ride.”

Provided by Tristin Garcia

Fiorella said he saw Garcia grow a lot his senior year, even though he was already “very mature for a high school-aged kid”. He said Garcia’s biggest growth came with his confidence. 

“He gained a great perspective to his value as a friend and teammate above being only a player,” Fiorella said.  

Garcia went to a handful of Prep Baseball Report Kentucky Showcases, but the main showcase was the Bluegrass Baseball Experience that put his name out to Tristan Toorie, Eastern Kentucky’s defensive coordinator at the time.

“Tristan Toorie was the coach that recruited me to go to Alcorn [State],” Garcia said. “At first, he was at Eastern Kentucky, and he was recruiting me to go there. Then, he ended up leaving Eastern Kentucky and going to Alcorn, and that’s when he picked me up. He told me over the phone, with my grades, that I would [receive] free school over there and I couldn’t turn that down.”

Home of the Braves

Richardson, Alcorn State’s head coach at the time, initially questioned Garcia’s hitting ability due to his five-foot-four stature. 

“I said to coach Toorie, ‘are you sure this guy is going to be able to play?’” Richardson said. “He said, ‘coach, trust me.’ The first time I saw [Garcia] swing a bat, I knew. This guy was the real deal.”

Garcia’s first start as a Brave didn’t go as planned – he went hitless in a 10-3 loss to Prairie View A&M on Feb. 15, 2019. He didn’t record his first collegiate hit until the third game of the season against Southern, going 1-for-1 as a pinch hitter. 

“You’re talking about a kid who’s very coachable,” Richardson said. “For a guy his size, he’s a very aggressive hitter. He doesn’t want to walk. He wants to swing the bat, so he’s gonna swing the bat. I said ‘look, I understand and appreciate the fact that you want to swing the bat, but at your size you have to be a little bit more selective in the pitches that you swing at’.”

On March 1, 2019 Garcia began a 10-game hit streak, the longest on the team that year. To go along with his hot streak he led the Braves in hits, triples, and multi-hit games his Freshman season. Garcia slashed for a .344 average and .478 slugging percentage while batting in 21 runs. 

The 2020 baseball season was a continuation of Garcia’s stellar freshman campaign. In his second game of the season he batted 4-for-6 with two RBIs and a solo home run against then-No.15 Ole Miss.

24 days later, Garcia’s season ended when the Southwestern Athletic Conference announced the cancellation of all winter and spring sports due to COVID-19.

“The following week was spring break and we didn’t have anything because it was raining, so me and my teammates were just hanging out and we had the call that the season was canceled,” Garcia said. “That kind of hurt, but then when we heard that we’re all coming back next year. It kind of helped us so we got a little closer, and the following year we just got after it more.” 

The Louisville native finished with a .333 batting average, hitting 11 RBIs during the shortened schedule.

“He not only hit well against Ole Miss, but he hit well against anybody,” former Alcorn State head coach Bretton Richardson said. “We played Mississippi State that year and he hit well against them. Teams in our conference, the Alabama States and the Jackson States, he hit well against those guys. Whether we were playing conference games or non-conference games, that guy could just flat-out hit.”

Back to the Bluegrass

Following the close of the 2021 season, Garcia knew he was ready to transfer.

“I always liked Alcorn,” Garcia said. “The coaches were great. The teammates were great. It’s just that last year, we didn’t have a great season and the head coach ended up leaving, so it made my decision [to transfer] pretty easy.”

WKU’s recruiting coordinator Adam Pavkovich found out about Garcia through the transfer portal and discovered he was playing in the Northwoods League during the summer with one of WKU’s players, Jackson Gray. 

“We call Jackson Gray, like ‘hey, you played against this guy’,” Pavkovich said. “He’s like, ‘oh yeah, he hit a homerun and I crashed into the fence trying to catch it’.” 

Pavkovich said the number one thing that stood out about Garcia was that he was a “proven Division 1 hitter.” He added that when you get high school and junior college transfers, they have to catch up the speed of Division 1 baseball.  

WKU head coach John Pawlowski said Garcia is a “very advanced hitter.” He added that Garcia brings an experienced bat to the program. 

“We’re excited to have him on board,” Pawlowski said. “This fall will be a really good test for us to see exactly where he’s at, but from all indications and what we’ve seen and so far is that he’s done a great job for us in the short time he’s been here.”

WKU held its first team practice on Sept. 14. Pawlowski said Garcia is all about business and he’s serious about becoming the best baseball player he can be.  

“I think we’re all just a big family here and I like that and I can’t wait to get after it with these boys,” Garcia said. 

Football reporter Wyatt Sparkman can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @wyattsparkman3.