Hailey Garcia is not the ballplayer she was just a few short weeks ago, courtesy of Major League Baseball’s efforts to provide youth softball players with elite training.
Garcia, an incoming senior at Millennium High School, was invited to the Softball Elite Development Invitational at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex in Vero Beach, Florida, from July 13 to July 17.
The invitational, organized by Major League Baseball and USA Softball, features 90 “top high school softball players,” per a press release from MLB’s Office of the Commissioner. Instructing the selected athletes were former Olympians Jennie Finch and Natasha Watley, as well as former Team USA coaches and players.
Finch and Watley, currently youth softball ambassadors for MLB, are former gold medalists.
Per the press release: “Players were selected by a combination of the following groups: MLB Youth Academy network, Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program, Major League Baseball, and more.”
“It was amazing,” Garcia said. “The coaches were all helpful, giving great advice. The girls were also right there giving advice and helping each other out.”
Each day at Vero Beach presented new learning opportunities. Mornings typically began around 8 a.m., consisting of strength and conditioning workouts and stretching. A two-hour practice would ensue, per Garcia.
“We worked more on dividing our bodies and the mechanics of our feet, and the mechanics of our body,” she said.
The latter half of the week called for team practices and intersquad games, an opportunity to showcase the skills they had learned throughout the week.
Garcia, a center fielder, left the invitational feeling like a more polished, well-rounded player.
“(I learned) to always stay in motion, keep your feet always moving, and just having quiet feet at the same time.”
Along with the on-field instruction, Garcia and the other attendees were also invited to a Miami Marlins game on July 16. There, they would have a “special career chat with front office employees,” according to the press release, featuring Executive Vice President of Baseball and Softball Development Tony Reagins and Senior VP of Baseball and Softball Development Kim Ng.
“We were able to talk to some of the top women in Major League Baseball,” Garcia said. “They gave us advice about everything — recruitment, time management, how to be respectful to teammates, and how, no matter what, always push yourself and never give up.”
Garcia is hopeful her invitation to the prominent developmental camp will parlay into interest from college coaches. Though she is uncommitted, her goal is to net an athletic scholarship before she graduates next spring.
“I hope she can translate hard work and dedication on and off the field,” her father, Esteban Garcia, said. “Not too many kids have the opportunity to be able to attend seminars and one-on-ones with amazing role models like Jennie Finch and so many other great people from MLB.”
Esteban Garcia said his oldest daughter’s work ethic is a model for his other three children. Hailey Garcia’s younger sister, Stacey, was recently featured by the West Valley View for becoming the first girl to make the boys’ baseball team at L. Thomas Heck Middle School.
The goal of continuing to play softball at the next level will certainly receive a boost when Hailey Garcia is able to pencil her selection to the elite camp into her resume.
“The activities we did, the chats we had,” she said, “they were just all so powerful.”