The man behind 'Hodie ball'

Aug. 7, 2010 at 3:07 a.m.

At the bottom part of the illustration in Hodie Garcia's own handwriting is "No eres nada sin la pelota." The phrase in English  means "You are nothing without the ball." Garcia would frequently use the expression during baseball practice, when he was the head coach at Stroman High School.

At the bottom part of the illustration in Hodie Garcia's own handwriting is "No eres nada sin la pelota." The phrase in English means "You are nothing without the ball." Garcia would frequently use the expression during baseball practice, when he was the head coach at Stroman High School.

Edward "Hodie" Garcia hasn't missed a day of work in 34 years. It's an achievement of which the Spanish teacher and baseball coach is particularly proud.

"I set a goal many years ago, that I was going to try to go 30 years without missing a day," he said. "And once I reached 30, I didn't know what else to do, so I just kept going."

One of the top highlights of his long career, which includes stints at seven schools and two tenures at Bloomington, where he coaches now, was the only UIL state baseball championship in Victoria history, in 1985 at Stroman.

A lot of the team's success came down to work ethic, he said. The Raiders in 1985 were brimming with confidence, and rarely doubted whether they would reach state tournament.

At the center of it was the style of baseball the team played - called "Hodie Ball" - that put a lot of pressure on the opposition by aggressively running and taking chances.

"We always believed we were going to get to big house," Garcia said. "That's the main goal, that's the ultimate goal, to win state, and that's our goal every year whether we make it or not.

"And that year, we had a group of boys that worked hard and believed in each other. They came together when it really counted and at the end, they were the best team in 5A baseball."

The path had its bumps in the road. The Raiders had to come from behind in five of their eight playoff games.

A big part of Stroman's success, he said, was the selfless attitude of the players on the team.

"It's amazing what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit," he said. "I love what I do and I do what I love, and it just so happens that I had a group of kids that year that jelled together and followed the plan and became champions."

Nerves? What nerves?

When the Raiders did get to Austin for the tournament, nerves could have been an issue. Being in front of a crowd the size as the one at Disch-Falk Stadium can be intimidating to anyone experiencing it for the first time.

"I'm sure they were nervous before that game, and I was too, but believed in what this program is all about, and we put it out on the field the best way we could," Garcia said.

The team, though, was living in the moment in the final game against Pasadena Rayburn.

"You're feeling something you've never felt before," said Manuel Alvarado, the Raiders' starting second baseman that year. "You're out there in front of thousands of people, there's a lot of emotions going through your head.

"I think if I had looked up in the stands, I would have got scared."

In the game, the breaks went Stroman's way, as things had for much of the season. Richard Delgado held Rayburn hitless for almost six innings, and when a mistake did happen - a wild pitch to the backstop with runners on in the seventh - it ricocheted back at just the right way to create the final out of the game at third base.

"Everything was right," Garcia said of that season. "The kids took care of themselves that year, and I felt like I was making good decisions with them. It was a team effort, and they deserved to win that year."

Discipline is key

"You have to understand between discipline and self-discipline," Garcia said. "I'm going to have discipline on the team. But when the kids take it upon themselves to discipline themselves, it's a heck of a lot easier then."

Garcia said the Raiders did a fair amount of policing of themselves, and played disciplined baseball on the field.

That didn't mean he didn't have to be hard on the players.

"As far as being hard on them, the only thing that was hard was practice," Garcia said. "Practice sometimes is boring. But, like one of my players said at the end, it's like going to work. You just get used to it."

And the one thing about going to that job, he said, is that the team loved playing baseball.

"It was fun for them," Garcia said. "They made it fun, and winning took care of a lot of things, and that's why they got what they got at the end."

The team was disciplined in how they played and approached the game, and part of it was because they bought into his plan.

"They had to follow the plan, and if they didn't follow the plan, they couldn't stay," he said. "And really, when you have a group of kids like that and they are under control and listening to you, there isn't but one place to go, and that's up."

Added Alvarado: "Hodie put a lot of discipline in us, and that helped us focus on the task at hand."

Even now, the rules that governed the Raiders in 1985 influence its players.

"I'm still early to everything I go to today," said Ralph Escalona, who played on the championship team in 1985. "We had rules that were you had to be there 15 minutes early, which turned into 30 minutes early. It was little things like that and being responsible for your actions that were instilled in us through coach Garcia."

Confidence in their roles

"Everybody knew what their role was," said Michael Yates, who pitched for Stroman's championship team, in an interview in 2005. "Hodie put you in because he had confidence in you. The confidence was there. When someone had a bad ballgame, somebody else picked that person up. It never seemed like the entire team had a bad ballgame at the same time."

Garcia said one of the most important parts of the teams he's coached is skill.

"You've got to have players," he said. "You can't do something like this with kids that aren't able to play. These kids trained, they played hard, they listened, and they executed. And when you do that, you're going to win."

Garcia said he knew he had a talented team from the moment he started coaching at Stroman in 1983.

"When they were sophomores, that's when I felt like, starting with this group, in a couple of years this could be a very good team," he said.

Garcia gave a lot of credit to the parents, who supported the team and allowed him to do his job as coach.

"I know at times it didn't seem like they approved of some of the things I did in the program, but I knew what I had to do," Garcia said. "And this group of kids, I had to approach it the way I did."

Legacy of coaches

It isn't just the years of success that are part of Garcia's legacy. Many of those who joined the coaching ranks at one time played for Garcia, including several of the players from the Stroman championship team.

Escalona is now the athletic director for Victoria ISD after coaching at Stroman and Memorial. Alvarado is the coach at Victoria West after coaching at Memorial, and Yates will be an assistant at Victoria East. Manny Rodriguez was a coach at Bay City and Van Vleck, and Greg Kobza is the head coach at Lamar Consolidated.

And this year, Lubbock Estacado went to the UIL state baseball tournament coached by one of Garcia's former players.

"The guy that took that team was my shortstop that played on the team I took," he said about Hector Limon, who moved from Estacado to Midland Lee at the end of the season.

It was the third time Estacado had been to the state tournament. The previous two times were in 1981 and 1982, during Garcia's tenure.

Coaching is a beautiful thing he said, and he said he's glad so many of his former players are now following a similar path.

"I never told them to become coaches, that's for sure, but I'm glad I got a chance to touch their lives, and they touched mine," Garcia said. "Some of these kids I gave four years of my life to them, and they gave four years of their life to me."

A lot had to do with the guy that was coaching the team in 1985, Escalona said.

"I think we kind of looked up to him, idolized him and wanted to have a part of him in us and wanted to be like him," he said. "I think a lot of us picked coaching because of him and wanted to emulate what he did for us."

Garcia showed some of his players, many of whom didn't come from privileged backgrounds, a way to be successful in life.

"Growing up, I didn't come from a rich family, my parents didn't graduate from high school, and I think a lot of our parents didn't," Alvarado said. "Hodie showed us a way to get out and be somebody, and that's what he told us about hard work.

"You work hard, good things happen. We worked hard that year and won state, been working hard ever since. And a lot of us got to where we are at because of him, just because of the work ethic he put in us and the discipline he gave us."



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