Friday, August 31, 2012

Webster Garrison Interview, Part 2, Never Quit

Stockton Ports manager Webster Garrison, right, meets with Bakersfield manager Ken Griffey Sr. and umpires before a July 2012 game at Bakersfield. (G21D Photo)
Part 1: Every Day | Part 2: Never Quit

Webster Garrison stepped onto the Oakland Coliseum field in August 1996 in awe.

He was in the major leagues for the first time, in his 12th season as a pro.

"It's an awesome feeling, man. Hard to explain," Garrison recalled to the Greatest 21 Days recently, "butterflies going through you, you just want to play well. You just want to impress, because it might be that one game you get chance to play in.

"I was just trying to play my heart out and try and stick in there and do whatever I can to help the team win."

Garrison stuck in there with the Athletics for all of five games, the only five major league games he would see in a 16-season professional career.

Garrison spoke to The Greatest 21 Days recently in Bakersfield, Ca., before his Ports took on the Bakersfield Blaze at historic Sam Lynn Ballpark. Garrison spoke of that trip to the bigs, but also his long wait to get there.
Stockton Ports manager Webster Garrison, No. 50, coaches third during a late July 2012 game at Bakersfield. (G21D Photo)
Drafted by the Blue Jays in the second round of the 1983 draft, spending his first six seasons in the Toronto system. He made AAA Syracuse by 1989, returning there for an injury plagued 1990.

Healthy again for 1991, Garrison found himself with the Athletics system, playing between AA Huntsville and AAA Tacoma. With the new organization, Garrison also found himself having to work harder to get noticed.

"You have to prove to them that you can outplay their guys," Garrison recalled.

Garrison hit .231 between the two levels in 1991, then .267 the next year, also between the two levels.

By 1993, though, his hitting picked up. He hit .303, topping .300 for the first time. He also ended up being co-MVP for the AAA Tacoma Tigers. He didn't get called up to Oakland.

After moving to the Rockies and AAA Colorado Springs for two seasons, Garrison returned to the Athletics system for 1996, his 12 season as a pro.

Along the way, Garrison recalled the days where he woke up and said he didn't want to do it anymore, that it wasn't working and he was going home.

"You never get around to it because you love the game so much," Garrison said. "You love the competition. Your goal is to go play in the major leagues. I never packed it in. I never quit. I never went home. And when I got that call, it was the greatest feeling ever."
Stockton Ports manager Webster Garrison before a July 2012 game at Bakersfield. (G21D Photo)

He got that call in early August 1996. He then made his own calls, to his relatives and friends. "They were excited for me as well," Garrison recalled, "and I was super excited."

Garrison remembered entering the Oakland clubhouse and seeing his jersey hanging in his locker. "That's a moment I had to myself," Garrison said. It's a jersey he still has.

Garrison debuted with the Athletics Aug. 2, at home against the Brewers. He went 0 for 3. The next day, he went 0 for 3, as well. But he also made it on base for the first time, and what would be the only time, in his career.

On a 3-2 pitch, Garrison recalled fouling off a couple offerings, then taking a close pitch. It was a ball and Garrison was on base.

Garrison played in three more games, getting just one at bat in each. His last game came Aug. 7, and his major league career was over.

"I enjoyed every minute of it," Garrison said. "It was unbelievable playing in the major leagues."

"I had nine at bats, I came close a couple times, hit a couple balls hard. But that's just baseball," Garrison said. "I wish I would have gotten more of an opportunity. But, you know when you're that guy and you get up there and get you chance, you try to make the best of it."

Stockton Ports manager Webster Garrison at Sam Lynn Ballpark in Bakersfield, Ca. in July 2012. (G21D Photo)
Garrison played two more seasons, one at AAA Edmonton in 1997 and the next back at AA Huntsville. The end came in spring 1999, Garrison recalled, when no one called.

Then the phone did ring. It was Oakland. They wanted him to coach. He's been with the Athletics since, both as a hitting coach and a manager.

With him as he works with his players is his 16 years as a player himself, playing at every level of baseball.

"It definately helps, just reaching the young guys," Garrison said. "You've been through everything physically and mentally and you kind of can relate to them."

Garrison can also relate that getting to the majors is not an easy task. That it takes work, hard work.

"For some of them, if you're good enough, it'll happen," Garrison said. "But for most of them, you've got to put in the work, you've got to put in the time."

Part 1: Every Day | Part 2: Never Quit

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