After 98 mph fastball, pitcher works toward MLB draft

On March 16, sophomore pitcher Nick Garcia threw a 98 mph fastball. He now aims for a potential MLB draft post-graduation. Photo by Mia Fortunato

On March 16, sophomore Chapman reliever Nick Garcia fired a fastball that stuck with him. Garcia felt strong in the home baseball game against California Lutheran University, and after he wound up and delivered, a number appeared on the scoreboard.

The ball had sped past the plate at 98 miles per hour.

“We were losing, so it wasn’t that big of a deal,” Garcia said. “Then, on the bus ride home, I sat there and I was like, ‘Holy.’”

In that moment, everyone was looking up at the scoreboard, head coach Scott Laverty said. Garcia said he wasn’t expecting an achievement of this caliber. For the right-hander, the pitch added to his statistics, which include a .89 earned run average for the 2018-19 season, and striking out an average of about two batters per inning.

On Garcia’s current track, Laverty said a chance of being drafted by a MLB team is “100 percent feasible.” But, the pitcher said he feels strange about such a quick rise to success.

“It’s been a weird past couple months now with everything kind of coming a little more to fruition in my life,” Garcia said. “You always, as a kid, are dreaming of what you want to do, whether it be an astronaut or be a professional athlete, but it’s weird because … I’m so close to getting there, it feels, and yet so far.”

Garcia began playing baseball at five years old, and he said he particularly enjoyed hitting, because he liked watching the ball’s distance. In his freshman season at Chapman, he played third base and appeared in 50 percent of games. But, Garcia knew he wanted to stick to pitching because he worked on his mechanics the summer before his sophomore season, and “things just kind of skyrocketed on the mound.”

A combination of long-toss sessions, adjustments to his pitching fundamentals and gaining 10 to 15 pounds added to Garcia’s maturation. Throughout the season, he said his fastball sat in the middle 90 miles per hour, before reaching 98. His favorite memory from the season is a February 9 game against Pacific University, in which he struck out two batters to close out a tight game.

“I try and trust my stuff, knowing that it’s better than everybody else,” Garcia said. “They’re not going to beat it – basically, that’s my mindset.”
The belief in his “stuff” is driving Garcia to be considered for a draft for a professional team.

“The scouts already know about Nick; he’s already on everybody’s radar,” Laverty said.

Chapman has had just one player drafted in the past six seasons, a Royals pitcher and 14th-round pick in the 2018 draft: Christian Cosby. If Garcia gets drafted, he and Cosby will have a chance to become the first players from Chapman (since 1984) to appear in the major leagues. But he doesn’t want to get too ahead of himself.

“(I’ll) just keep following that same path, stay focused on what I’ve done and continue to trust that it’ll put me in a very good spot,” Garcia said.