For 58 years now, Manny Garcia — the living legend — has been coaching baseball. Although his 79th birthday is around the corner, age has done nothing to diminish his unparalleled coaching ability which is made all the more apparent by the Winters High School junior varsity baseball team’s undefeated league record.
The word ‘coaching,’ however, doesn’t quite encapsulate Garcia’s method of leadership. Rather, he helps cultivate respect for the game, inspires belief in his players who may be down on themselves and imparts to the young men under his tutelage valuable life lessons to take with them beyond the baseball field.
With 58 years of coaching under his belt, retiring had crossed his mind entering the 2023–24 season. That sentiment was knocked out of the park when young players, moving up to the junior varsity level, let him know how much they wanted him to be their coach. Blessed — or cursed — with a bleeding heart, Garcia agreed to come back and coach.
“We’re undefeated in league, but I don’t tell my team that, because I’m superstitious,” Garcia said talking about his team’s season so far. “Their chemistry is very good. They’re finally playing together, they do what I tell them and that’s what’s most important in the game.”
To Garcia, one of the standout moments of the WHS junior varsity baseball team’s stellar season came in a non-league game against Woodland Christian. While the game was a 5–4 loss, Garcia recalls the efforts of sophomore Jordan Wojan, claiming he played in the outfield and was making catches like a major leaguer. From the catches to throws that kept runners from advancing the bases, Garcia raved at Wojan’s performance and also claimed varsity head coach, Austin Calvert will be quite pleased to have Wojan on his squad next year.
“I treat my players like men. I don’t disrespect any of them. If they get out of line, I take them to the side and tell them what they’re doing wrong. I respect the way they feel because they’re still kids, but you still got to push them a little bit to bring the real men out of them,” said Garcia. “I’ll say the season’s been so far, so good. But I have a thing that I’ll only talk to them twice about an issue. The third time, they’re in trouble and they know that. At times they’ll try to push their luck with two talks, but they get the hint after that.”
The junior varsity team’s record includes wins against St. Helena, Colusa, Durham and Fairfield which yields them a 4–0 record in the league and an overall record of 6–4.
With the end of the season around the corner, Garcia reflects on his team’s success with pride.
“If they lose, they lose as a team and walk off with their heads high. There’s a learning process even in a loss. Now, they’re winning, not showing off and accepting it like winners. They’re all pretty level-headed and I’ve got to thank this program for that,” said Garcia.
There are still games left in the season for community members to come out to watch and support the junior varsity baseball club.
“People are missing out on something that hasn’t happened since 2017. For the first time ever then, we took the Colusa tournament, we took the league and then some players went up to varsity and won a championship with (Jeff) Ingles. So now, it’s happening again, and that’s what drives me to come back and see the same kids,” said Garcia. “What I take the most pleasure in is seeing a young man that doesn’t pick up the ball or throw it right, but by the middle of the season, he’s leading off like he’s supposed to, catching the ball with both hands and throwing it correctly. That’s what makes me proud right there.”
To find the junior varsity baseball squad’s schedule visit the Athletics page at whs.wintersjusd.org.