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Nomar Garciaparra

Nomar Garciaparra

Position(s):
2B, DH, SS, 3B, 1B
Nicknames:
Nomah
Born:
July 23, 1973
Bats:
Right
Throws:
Right
Height:
6'
Weight:
165 lbs
Major League Debut:
8-31-1996 with BOS
Allstar Selections:
1997 ROOK, 1997 SS

After playing a decade as an All-Starshortstopfor theBoston Red Sox, he playedthird base,first base, anddesignated hitterfor theOakland Athletics, first base and third base for theLos Angeles Dodgers, andshortstopand third base for theChicago Cubs. He is one of 13 players in Major League history tohit two grand slams during a single game, and the only player to achieve the feat at home.

Early years

Nomar's middle name (his first name is Anthony) is his father's name, Ramon, spelled backwards. Garciaparra attended St. Mary's of the Assumption School for elementary school; for high school he attendedSt. John Bosco High SchoolinBellflower, California, where he excelled in football, soccer, and baseball, and had a 4.0GPA. His teams won high school league championships in 1990–91, and he won the league MVP honors in 1991, his last year of high school. St. John Bosco High School retired Garciaparra's baseball jersey. St. John Bosco High School's Activities Office window is home to an area dedicated to Garciaparra's baseball career both at the school and with the Dodgers.

Garciaparra was originally drafted by theMilwaukee Brewersin the 5th round of the1991 draft, but did not sign.

Garciaparra attendedGeorgia Tech, where he majored in business management and helped theYellow Jacketsreach theCollege World Series title game in 1994(they would lose toOklahoma). Former Boston teammateJason Varitekwas also a member of that team. He was anAtlantic Coast ConferenceAll-Star and a first team All-American twice in 1993–94. Garciaparra and Varitek were the first two Yellow Jackets ever to be two-time All-Americans, having been joined only by the Baltimore Orioles'Matt Wieters. Nomar was also an academic All-American. While in college, Garciaparra played for theOrleans Cardinalsof theCape Cod Baseball League.

Major League Baseball career

Garciaparra is a six-timeAll-Star(1997,1999,2000,2002,2003,2006). In 2001, he suffered a wrist injury, the first in a series of significant injuries that plagued the remainder of his career.

Boston Red Sox (1994–2004)

Garciaparra was afirst round pickof theRed Soxin1994following a successful career at Georgia Tech. He played in the Red Sox minor league system for three years (1994–Sarasota,1995–Trenton,1996–Pawtucket).

He made his Major League debut on August 31, 1996, as a defensive replacement againstOakland. His first Major League hit was a home run off of Oakland pitcherJohn Wasdinon September 1. Nomar would then ultimately take Wasdin deep a record thirteen times over his career. Garciaparra is known for his idiosyncraticticswhen batting. This habit includes an elaborate routine of glove adjustments and alternating toe taps on the ground prior to an ensuing pitch.

At the time,Boston'sstarting shortstop wasJohn Valentin, who finished ninth inMVP votingin1995. By late1996, Nomar won the job. Garciaparra's talent was enough to displace Valentin, who was moved tosecond base(thenthird base) to make room for young Garciaparra, who batted .241 with 4 home runs, 16 RBI, and 5 stolen bases in his initial stint with the club near the end of 1996. As a rookie in1997, he hit 30 home runs and drove in 98 runs, setting a new MLB record for RBIs by a leadoff hitter and most homers by a rookie shortstop.His 30-game hitting streak set an A.L. rookie record. He was namedRookie of the Yearin a unanimous vote, competed in theHome Run Derby, and finished eighth in MVP voting. He also won the immediate admiration of Red Sox fans, who referred to him in Boston accents as "NO-mah!". His popularity in New England was reflected in theSaturday Night Live"The Boston Teens" sketches, whereJimmy Fallon's character Pat Sullivan always wore a Garciaparra T-shirt and would repeatedly reference his admiration for him. Garciaparra even appeared in one of the sketches, where he was introduced as the boyfriend of Sully's sister (played by guest hostKate Hudson).

He finished with 35 home runs and 122 RBI in 1998, and placed as the runner-up for AL MVP. Garciaparra then led theAmerican Leaguein batting average for the next two years, hitting .357 in1999and .372 in 2000, finishing in the top ten in MVP voting both years. He is one of the few right-handed batters to win consecutive batting titles, and the first sinceJoe DiMaggio. He hit safely and scored a run in the first five games of his post-season career (1998–99), and is joined byIan Kinsler(2010) as the only other player to start his post-season career in that manner.

In February of2001, Garciaparra appeared on the cover ofSports Illustrated, with the headline "A Cut Above... baseball's toughest out". The week after the issue hit newsstands, Garciaparra suffered a broken right wrist that would ruin his season and alter the trajectory of his career. He recovered by the start of the2002 seasonand drove in 120 runs while hitting a league-leading 56doubles. However, he had a difficult time playing as strongly defensively as before, and his batting average dipped substantially, though it was still an excellent .310.

The end of Garciaparra in Boston

Before the2002season, a new ownership group purchased the Red Sox. The baseball operations staff, led byTheo Epstein, stressed on-base percentage on offense and strong defense, two areas where Garciaparra was about to decline precipitously from his pre-2001 levels. Still, Garciaparra recovered from an injury-filled2001 seasonto bat .310 with 24 home runs and 120 RBIs in 2002. The star shortstop was up for a contract extension following the2004 seasonand hoped for a deal before that deadline. Still considered one of the best shortstops in baseball, he hoped to receive salaries similar to peersAlex RodriguezandDerek Jeter.

In2003, Garciaparra had agood seasonin which he was second in the majors in triples, fifth in the AL in hits, and second in the AL in runs scored. Unfortunately, a September slump caused his batting average to dip, but it still ended at a very good .301. He followed that with a poor post-season, contributing zero home runs, one RBI and ten strikeouts in 12 games against theOakland Athleticsand rivalYankees, who eliminated theRed Soxin a thrilling seven-game series.

Meanwhile, new stars and cult heroes, led byDavid OrtizandKevin Millar, began to emerge inBoston. Millar convinced nearly every player on the roster other thanJohnny Damonand Garciaparra (whose wedding withMia Hammfollowed the season) to shave his head.

After the 2003 season, Red Sox management explored tradingManny Ramírezto theTexas Rangersfor shortstopAlex Rodriguez. However, the MLB Players' Union objected to Rodriguez's willingness to sacrifice a huge amount of his $250 million contract to facilitate a deal to Boston, and the New York Yankees then struck a deal with Texas to bring A-Rod (who gave up $14 million with union approval) to their team. The Red Sox then had covert trade talks involving Nomar with theChicago White Sox, but the subsequent agreement to trade Garciapara and other for a package centered aroundMagglio Ordóñezquickly became public. Garciaparra thus returned to Boston for the start of the2004season in the final year of a contract signed in 1997, and it quickly became clear that he was enraged with the team and would not return to Boston after the season. After Boston was beaten soundly by the Yankees in a July series in New York, Boston decided to trade away Garciaparra.

Chicago Cubs

Garciaparra with the Cubs in 2005 spring training

On July 31, 2004 (the MLB trading deadline), Garciaparra was the key player involved in a four-team deal that sent Nomar andMatt Murtonto the wild card leadingChicago Cubs. The Red Sox receivedOrlando CabreraandDoug Mientkiewicz. Nomar expressed his appreciation to Red Sox fans in a speech to media, and left for theWindy City. At first, Garciaparra was assigned jersey number 8, because Cub catcherMichael Barrettwore number 5. A few days later, they switched numbers. TheCubsled the wild card until mid-September, but finished the 2004 season with 89 wins and out of the playoffs. Meanwhile, theRed Soxfinally overcame the Yankees en route to aWorld Seriessweep of theSt. Louis Cardinals, after which Nomar's former teammates voted to give him a World Series ring.Curt Schillingnoted that if not for Nomar, the Sox might not have been in a position to win at all.

In the2005 season, a torn left groin forced him onto thedisabled listfor more than three months. Garciaparra resumed play on August 5, 2005. Because Cubs regular third basemanAramis Ramírezwas on the disabled list for the last few weeks of the2005 season, he volunteered to temporarily play third base, and Cub skipperDusty Bakeragreed. Aside from his first game in the Majors, in which he played second base, he had played shortstop in all of his other Major League games up to that point in his career.

Los Angeles Dodgers

In2006, Nomar returned to his home town, signing with theLos Angeles Dodgers. Also with the team were former Red Sox playersBill Mueller,Derek Lowe, and managerGrady Little.

While facing theNew York Metson June 6, 2006, Nomar hit a two-runhome runon the first pitch he ever saw against former teammate and fellow Boston iconPedro Martínez. Coincidentally,Derek Lowewas the starting pitcher for the Dodgers that day.

Though he was able to retain his original jersey number (5), he moved to first base, while the Dodgers signedRafael Furcalfrom theAtlanta Bravesto step in for the recoveringCésar Izturisat short. Healthy for the first extended period of time since 2003, he regained his offensive stroke, evidenced by a .370 batting average at one point, and by his remaining constantly productive. By theMLB All-Star Break, Nomar was tied with Pittsburgh'sFreddy Sanchezfor the lead among all MLB infielders and allNLbatters with a .358 batting average, to go along with 11 home runs and 53 RBIs, carrying a 21-game hitting streak into the break. The .362 average he held at the 2006 All-Star break was the second highest by a Dodger since they moved intoDodger Stadiumin1962with the only higher mark being held byMike Piazza.

Garciaparra with the Dodgers in 2008

He adjusted well to playing first base, having committed only 1 error through 588.2 innings played—a .998fielding percentage. He also was elected to the 2006 NL All-Star Team as the National LeagueAll-Star Final Votewinner, receiving around six million votes. It was his sixth trip to the Midsummer Classic, and his first as a first baseman and as a Dodger. His .358 batting average steadily declined to just a hair over .300 by the end of the season. Despite Garciaparra's late season slump and injuries, Garciaparra did prevail in the clutch for the Dodgers during their playoff race with twowalk off home runs. The first capped off one of the most amazing games of the season on September 18, when the Dodgers hit four consecutive home runs in the ninth inning against theSan Diego Padresto tie the game. After the Padres scored a run in the tenth inning, Nomar hit a walk off two-run home run in the bottom of the tenth to win the game 11–10. Six days later on September 24, Garciaparra hit a walk off grand slam against theArizona Diamondbacksto give the Dodgers a 5–1 victory with one week left in the regular season. Garciaparra's walk off home run against Arizona propelled the Dodgers to win their last seven games of the regular season, helping the Dodgers to make the playoffs.

On October 7, Garciaparra was named theNational League's Comeback Player of the Yearfor 2006. He received 72,054 votes.

On November 20, 2006, the Dodgers re-signed Garciaparra to a 2-year contract worth $18.5 million, keeping him with the team through the2008season.

On June 25,2007, Garciaparra volunteered to move fromfirsttothird basein order to make room for rookieJames Loney.

During 2008spring trainingGarciaparra suffered a microfracture on his hand after a hit-by-pitch. This forced him to start the2008 MLB seasonon the DL. RookieBlake DeWittheld the job in the meantime. On April 16, he started his first game against thePittsburgh Pirates, only to suffer a strained left calf muscle 9 days later resulting in another trip to the DL. He returned July, 4th, 2008 playing shortstop for the first time since 2005.

Garciaparra was placed on the DL on August 1, 2008, solely to make room for Manny Ramirez, who had been acquired in a trade. He had sprained his knee in a contest against the Washington Nationals on a play in which Loney threw the ball into the dirt, forcing Garciaparra, who was covering third base, to go to his knees to save the ball, allowingLastings Milledgeto slide into him spikes-first.

Oakland Athletics

On March 6, 2009, Garciaparra signed a one-year deal with theOakland Athletics. With the acquisition ofMatt Hollidayfrom theColorado Rockiesin the off-season, Nomar was not granted his usual jersey number 5 he has worn with every team throughout his career thus far (Garciaparra wore number 8 for theChicago Cubsfor a few games before switching withMichael Barrettto wear number 5 again), so instead he wore number 1. Immediately after Holliday's trade to theSt. Louis Cardinals,Eric Pattersonwas called up and then given number 5. Afterward, Garciaparra and Patterson switched numbers, with Garciaparra taking number 5 and Patterson number 1.

On July 6, 2009, Garciaparra returned toFenway Parkfor the first time since being traded by the Red Sox in 2004. Before the game he was met with tremendous support from the fans, press, and his former teammates. Before he stepped up to the plate for his first at bat, he was met by a lengthy standing ovation from the fans at Fenway, to which he tipped his cap and graciously clapped along with them. After grounding out, when passing the Red Sox dugout, he thanked his former team. In his second at bat, Garciaparra got the game's first RBI to yet another lengthy applause. Garciaparra was also present with the Athletics to see the Red Sox retireJim Rice's number. Rice was Garciaparra's hitting coach in the early part of his career in Boston.

Retirement

On March 10, 2010, Garciaparra signed a one-day contract with the Boston Red Sox to retire as a member of the organization. Garciaparra will take a position atESPN, contributing analysis for the programBaseball Tonightas well as selectWednesday Night Baseballtelecasts.

On May 5, 2010, The Red Sox hosted "Nomar Garciaparra Night", honoring Nomar before a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He was given two official seats from Fenway byJohnny Pesky, one bearing Nomar's own #5, and the other bearing Pesky's #6.

Nomar threw out the first pitch on Nomar Day to his former teammateJason Varitekwith his signature off-balance sidearm throw. The hometown crowd greatly appreciated the effort.


Personal life

On November 22, 2003, Garciaparra marriedOlympianandWorld CupChampion soccer starMia Hamm. The couple have twin girls, Grace Isabella and Ava Caroline, who were born on March 27, 2007, inLos Angeles.

Both he and Mia Hamm were on Olympic teams in their respective sports. Garciaparra was on the1992 Olympic baseballteam, and Hamm was on the1996,2000, and2004women'sOlympic soccerteams.

Garciaparra is the cousin ofArturo Javier Ledesma, a Mexican soccer player who currently plays forNecaxa. His uncle is legendary Mexican soccer goalkeeper, Javier "Zully" Ledesma. His brother,Michael Garciaparra, is a baseball player, playing second base for the triple-ARound Rock Express.

On theKate Hudson/Radioheadepisode on season 26 ofSaturday Night Live, Garciaparra cameoed in a "Boston Teens" sketch.

On October 16, 2005, Garciaparra and his uncle Victor were alerted to the screams of two women who had fallen intoBoston Harboroutside his condominium. One of the women sustained injuries to her head after hitting the pier on her way in. Garciaparra quickly jumped into the harbor and saved both women, who were later taken to the hospital.

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