When Aaliyah Garcia first met Head Coach Kim Dean from the Georgia Southern softball team, she had just wrapped up playing in a travel ball tournament and was on the way to Japan. She was traveling with the professional team that was connected to her travel team, and didn’t really have time to think about anything else. Her main focus was packing. Not Statesboro.
She described Japan as one of the best experiences of her life, though she couldn’t keep Coach Dean out of her head.
This quick exchange of words in the hot Missouri sun would be the stepping stone between the Texas native and the next chapter of her athletic career, though she had no idea at the time.
Garcia is more than just a pitcher and she knows that. She’s a state champion who left her alma mater with a perfect 4.0 GPA, a school-record and three Pitcher of the Year awards to her name. Surprisingly, she does not even think about her previous accomplishments and wanted to start fresh in the NCAA.
“That was just high school,” Garcia said. “This is a bigger platform…I hadn’t even thought of that until you said something about it, but I know what I can do and I just want to prove it to my teammates.”
In order to understand who Garcia is, nicknamed AG on the team, you have to go back to her roots.
She began playing t-ball at the age of four and has been surrounded by athletes her entire life. She is one of five children and almost everyone in the house played sports.
At eight years old, she picked up pitching because her dad kept nudging her to do it. She credits her father for her entire softball career and doesn’t know what she would do without him.
“Everybody at that age learns how to pitch,” she said. “I was like ‘Okay Dad, lets get lessons’. So I just kind of jumped into it and my dad was like ‘I knew you were gonna want to sooner or later’. It was really a lot of him.”
She was a tri-sport athlete at Angleton High School, also competing in varsity basketball and volleyball, though softball was always her first love. She played the other sports because she wanted to fill her time during the softball off-season, but admits that it took a toll on her body.
“Senior year, we all just wanted to have a good time,” Garcia said. “We ended up winning state but it was a tough year. I had a lot of problems with my arm and my back. It was a lot trying to keep my body well…Here I’m always going to the trainer to make sure I’m right because I don’t wanna have to be on edge all the time like I was in high school.”
AG was originally committed to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi very early on in her high school career, but eventually opened up her recruiting options again. She committed to GS in the fall of her senior campaign after visiting the campus and immediately loved the small town feel, since it reminded her of home.
When she got here, she was met with open arms into a rebuilding program led by a new coaching staff. The team has gotten off to an 8-2 start and AG has already pitched for about 25 innings in the stretch, while striking out 18.
“I was really anxious coming in,” Garcia said. “I was trying to prove myself and some of my teammates just told me it takes time and to be who you are and let your talents show.”
When she gets on the mound to pitch, she forces her mind to go blank and she never looks at the batter. This technique may seem odd to some, but she doesn’t know any other way.
With Garcia’s help, GS is currently ranked No.1 in ERA at the Division I level.
Amanda Arnold, The George-Anne Managing Sports Editor, [email protected]