Ramon Spelled Backward By Any Other Name
Yep, even before he was born he was one of a kind. I would have loved to be there when his parents combined each of their last names to give him his. Then Ramon wasn't exactly what they wanted for their son so they decided on spelling it backward. That was how Nomar Garciapara entered this life. I doubt anyone back then had the slightest idea just how great that life would become.
The first time I knew anything about Nomar was back in the early 1990's when I was treated to watching a young phenom at shortstop playing in the College World Series for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. They lost that World Series Championship game to the Miami Hurricanes but no one made a bigger impression. Soon after he was drafted #1 in baseballs 1994 draft by the Boston Red Sox and blossomed quickly in their minor leagues until the Sox realized he was too talented to not be on the Major League scene. They brought him up in the summer of 1996 but the Boston starting shortstop was John Valentin who's play the previous year was so good he was in the MVP conversation. Still, playing sparingly, as a defensive replacement he saw enough time to force the Sox to move Valentine to 2'nd base and begin his tenure as Boston's starting shortstop. It proved to be a smart move as Garciapara won the 1997 American League Rookie of the Year award by a unanimous vote and was selected to his first of 5 American League All Star teams.
I became a huge Nomar fan during those years and loved to watch him redefine the Shortstop position. The horrible wrist injury he suffered in 2001 was only the first of many aches and pains that would plague him for the rest of his career but watching him was still a delight. His intensity and fire was so evident with every quirky adjustment to those batting gloves or kick of the dirt on the infield.
After being traded from the Red Sox to the Cubs in 2004 Garciapara's former teamates went on to win the World Series in a 4 game sweep of the Cardinals. Anyone who wonders what kind of a teamate Nomar was need not wonder anymore. Those former Red Sox teamates voted Nomar Garciapara a full winners share of the World Series bonus!
It was a big thrill for me when Garciapara was traded from the Cubs to the Dodgers in 2006 so I could see one of my favorite players playing on my favorite team. It was a miraculous year! Nomar made his first National League All Star team and was a league leader in hitting. He won the National Leagues Comeback Player of the Year and provided the Dodgers with a proven player to lead them in the pennant chase all summer. The day I will never forget, that season, was a home game against the Padres in late September. San Diego got off to a fast start and led the Dodgers by 4 runs in the 9'th inning of the game. The Dodgers set a team record with 4 solo home runs hit by 4 different players consecutively to tie the game. Seems like everyone remembers that but few, it seems, remember the Padres taking a 1 run lead right back in the 10'th. The Dodgers appeared to have blown the chance to win a comeback game for the ages when with one man on in the bottom of the 10'th Nomar slugged a two run walk off home run to win that game in grand style. If that wasn't enough less than a week later Gaciapara broke a 1-1 tie against Arizona with a Grand Slam walk of HR. His clutch performances continued the last two weeks of the season and he led Los Angeles to the Playoffs.
In 2007 injuries jumped up and bit him again and plagued him for the rest of his career.
Last year my sister and I went to Arizona for Spring Training to see the Dodgers but took a day to drive over to Phoenix Municipal Stadium to watch Nomar play 3'rd base for the Oakland A's in a game against the Cubs. He did not disappoint us as he smacked two base knocks and a pair of RBI's while playing a perfect defensive game. I also took my son to Oakland to see him a few times because I knew the end was near.
Well, yesterday Nomar Garciapara signed a 1 day contract with the Boston Red Sox and announced his retirement back with the team it all started with. It was a sad day for baseball and a sad day for me and millions of other fans.
Good luck at ESPN Nomar and thanks for the memories!
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