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Kevin Garcia relishes 2nd chance in professional baseball

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CEDAR RAPIDS — When a second opportunity in affiliated professional baseball literally rang for Kevin Garcia, he was too tired to pick up the phone.

A Minnesota Twins scout buzzed the Cedar Rapids Kernels catcher in February to say the club wanted to sign him to a minor-league contract. Garcia had been released that previous November after two seasons in the Toronto Blue Jays organization and was looking for work.

“I had a tryout January 3rd with them,” said Garcia, whose team had its game against Clinton suspended by rain Thursday night at Veterans Memorial Stadium. “My agent talked to one of their scouts. He saw me throw to second, saw me take BP (batting practice).

“He said ‘I want to sign you, but I’ve got to go through the right steps first.’ I was stressed out, was thinking about going to Mexico because there were a couple of teams there that were interested in me. I was going to go to spring training with the Mets. They invited me. No contract or anything, just a tryout.”

Garcia decided to get away from the stress of his situation and drove with his girlfriend a couple hours from his home in El Centro, Calif., to San Diego for the weekend. Wiped out by the trip, they slept ... right through a call from the Twins.

“I woke up and saw it was the scout. I started screaming, swiped my phone and called him,” Garcia said. “It was to the point where if it was up to God, it was up to God if I would play again. There’s nothing I can do, I’m not going to worry about it. I gave it my best. Forget about the rest.”

Garcia, 23, who played collegiately at Loyola Marymount, began this season in extended spring training, then got assigned to high-Class A Fort Myers. After a month there, he was sent to Cedar Rapids, where he has been solid.

He was hitting .276 in 20 games going into Thursday and was 0-for-1 when play was stopped with one out in the bottom of the fourth inning and Clinton leading, 3-2, because of storms. The game will resume Friday afternoon at 5:35, with a seven-inning affair to follow.

The Kernels (60-48, 24-15 second half) are a game behind Clinton for first place in the Midwest League’s Western Division.

“It’s been a rollercoaster this season,” Garcia said. “It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions and experiences. But at the end of the day, I get to be on a team that’s contending to win. The Kernels are a possible contender to win a championship.”

Prior to Thursday’s game, the Twins announced pitcher Miles Nordgren has been reassigned to the Kernels from Fort Myers. He went 0-3 with a 6.14 ERA in four starts for the Miracle after being promoted from Cedar Rapids last month.

Also joining the Kernels is pitcher Tyler Beardsley from Rookie-level Elizabethton. The right-hander was a 16th-round draft pick of the Twins in June out of Sacramento State and was 2-0 with a save and 2.65 ERA in seven appearances, five starts in Rookie ball.

l Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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