No greater friend to men’s fastpitch than Bebe Garcia

Written by Bob on August 24th, 2016
BeBe Garcia and his Baytown Hawks, have won the Latin American State Tournament 12 years, signified by the 12 stars on Garcia's hat. Garcia was inducted into the Texas Latin American Hall of Fame in 2001, and the Texas ASA Hall of Fame in 1994 for his outstanding service and contributions to men's fastpitch softball. Photo By BOB OTTO / Aug. 19, 2016

Bebe Garcia and his Baytown Hawks, have won the Latin American State Tournament 12 years, signified by the 12 stars on Garcia’s hat. Garcia was inducted into the Texas Latin American Hall of Fame in 2001, and the Texas Softball Hall of Fame in 1994 for his outstanding service and contributions to men’s fastpitch softball. Photo By BOB OTTO / Aug. 19, 2016

MOLINE, IL. – Cozied up and sitting just inches from the chain link fence that surrounds home plate on field five at the ISC World Tournament sat Bebe Garcia in his lawn chair. His eyes rarely strayed from the ball diamond.

This is an 81-year-old man who has devoted a good share of his life to boys’ and men’s fastpitch. Loves the game? You bet he does.

Garcia is spry, fit, and gregarious as ever. He talks fastpitch with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face as long as anyone will listen. And his history in the sport is pretty incredible.

It all began as a kid back in the 1940s in Texas. First as a player, then a pitcher. Good? Yes he was.

But his athletic skills pale in comparison to his leadership skills, his people skills, his marketing skills. In the business world, Garcia would be applauded as a “mover and a shaker.”

The man gets things done for fastpitch in Texas. Baytown and Houston in particular.

He has formed teams, run tournaments, recruited players – mostly young and looking for someone to give them a chance. Garcia gave them that chance.

“I started a team of sandlot players, 16, 17, 18 years old,” said Garcia. “I did that for about 25 years. Then went to organized ball, and moved to Open ball.”

And 55 years a go, he formed the Baytown Hawks, a team that has built a solid reputation in Texas and beyond for playing hard, well, and fair.

The Hawks started on the local level, but moved up to play the “big boys,” in the ISC World Tournament in 1977 and 1992. Last week found him back at the ISC World Tournament in Moline.

“I wanted to come to this tournament of this stature and watch,” he said.

Remember the “mover and shaker” comment?

Well, Garcia wasn’t just watching. He was in Moline on a recruiting mission. The sport needs pitching; his Hawks needs pitching, as well as other teams in Texas. And he wanted to make the best teams in the game aware that there’s a pretty competitive tournament in Houston.

And he would be ever so grateful if they would come play in it. He even handed out T-shirts advertising his team and the tournament, “Baytown Hawks Latin American Tournament.”

The official title of the tournament is the Rusk Athletic Club Men’s Fastpitch Invitational. 2016 marked its 67th year. Teams from Mexico, California, New Mexico, Kansas and various parts of Texas play in it. Besides hosting the tournament, the organization gives scholarships to deserving students.

In its heyday, as many as 32 teams competed, but it has slipped to 16 as the sport has lost some of its popularity. But Garcia is focused on raising those numbers.

“I would like some of these (world tournament) teams to play in it,” he said, adding that some great players have showcased their talent in the event. “We have had (pitchers) Juan Potolicchio, Lucas Mata and Jeremy Manley pitch in it. Raymundo Parra, one of the best hitters ever in Mexico has played, and Charlie Pena, the “brown bomber,” one of the best players to play for me, has played in the tournament for 25 years.”

081916-baytown_hawks_emblem.456lr The Baytown Hawks have won the Latin-American Tournament 12 times: 1967, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1977, 1979, 1992, 1998, 2007, 2008, 2011, and 2013.

The Hawks have won it 12 times. And he proudly wears a hat with 12 Texas stars and the championship years printed within. The first title was in 1967, the latest 2013.

He takes great pride in that accomplishment. But greater pride yet comes from having his sons by his side, appreciating the sport as much as he does.

Seated alongside the chain link fence watching world tournament games with Dad were Michael “Dub”, Art, and Perry Garcia. And at home is Daniel Garcia, who sponsors the Hawks.

A TEXAS FASTPITCH FAMILY - The Garcia's of Baytown, Texas attended the 2016 70th ISC World Tournament in Moline, Illinois to watch and recruit for their team and tournament in Texas. From left, Art Garcia,  father Bebe Garcia, 81, Michael "Dub" Garcia, and Perry Garcia. Unable to attend was son Daniel Garcia, who sponsors his dad's team, the Baytown Hawks. Photo By BOB OTTO / Aug. 19, 2016

A TEXAS FASTPITCH FAMILY – The Garcia’s of Baytown, Texas attended the 2016 70th ISC World Tournament in Moline, Illinois to watch and recruit for their team and tournament in Texas. From left, Art Garcia, father Bebe Garcia, 81, Michael “Dub” Garcia, and Perry Garcia. Unable to attend was son Daniel Garcia, who sponsors his dad’s team, the Baytown Hawks. Photo By BOB OTTO / Aug. 19, 2016

“Dad eats and sleeps softball,” said Dub. “On holidays we are talking softball at the dinner table. Softball wouldn’t be what it is in Texas without Dad.”

For his devotion to the game, Bebe Garcia was inducted in the Texas Softball Hall of Fame (1994) and the Texas Latin American Hall of Fame in 2001.

He appreciates the honors. Is humble for receiving the honors. But for Bebe Garcia the game is more than honors, more than balls and strikes, more than winning and losing. It’s about bringing one-time strangers together at the ballpark, and after the last out, leaving as friends. Win or lose.

“Softball is family,” Garcia said. “We talk, we laugh, we cook after the games. I have made many friends because of softball.”

And fastpitch softball is so very fortunate to have a friend in Bebe Garcia.

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