LAWRENCE, Kan. — Stay calm.
That has been important for Missouri freshman second baseman Eric Garcia, especially in the tough situation he was in to start the season.
Second base, like every position except first base, was up for grabs on the Missouri baseball team. Garcia was a candidate to start there, along with upperclassmen Andrew Thigpen and Conner Mach.
Garcia didn’t get a lot of playing time during the first two weekends, but when the older guys struggled, he got his chance. Garcia said the older players have not given him a hard time about earning the spot.
“They’ve been real respectful,” Garcia said. “They respect me all around. It wasn’t the best experience, taking an upperclassman’s spot. It isn’t really what they want, but I got to do what I got to do.”
Garcia has been the Tigers' most consistent freshman player and has done so by staying calm. But some of Garcias’ freshmen teammates have not done the same and their playing time has diminished because of it.
Coach Tim Jamieson said Garcia has done a good job.
“He’s handled his struggles pretty well, which some of the other freshmen haven’t,” Jamieson said. “That’s why he’s playing every day, as opposed to guys who aren’t playing as consistently as they were.”
In Missouri’s 10-3 loss to Kansas on Friday at Hoglund Ball Park in Lawrence, Kan., Garcia stayed consistent. While his teammates struggled batting, Garcia had two hits, including a solo home run, his fifth of the season.
Third baseman Brett Nicholas, however, ended his 19-game hitting streak. Nicholas said Garcia doesn’t say a lot, but leads by example.
“He’s real quiet,” Nicholas said. “He just goes about his business. He’s here every day, working hard. There’s not a day that goes by that he’s not getting better.”
The whole team hopes Garcia continues to improve. He has been impressive, but he has to keep pushing forward. Right now, it looks like he will.
“He’s got the potential to be one of the premier middle infielders of the Big 12,” Jamieson said. “He’s having a good freshman year, but if he stays the same player the next two years, we’ll all be disappointed.”
Garcia’s day wasn’t enough to make the game close, but when it was over, Garcia listened and cringed at the “Rock Chawk, Jayhawk” chant that echoed throughout the field and was quickly ready to turn the page.
“They’re a good ball club, but we need to come out fighting tomorrow,” Garcia said. “Put a butt-whooping on them.”
Missouri (24-20, 7-11 Big 12) and Kansas (27-19-1, 8-10-1) play Game 2 of the series at 6 p.m., Saturday in Lawrence, Kan.