Lounging in a folding chair behind the backstop, chewing sunflower seeds between puffs on a cigarette, Bob stretched and smiled. "This is nice," he said. "When I was managing I had to try to see all the kids at once. Now I can just look at one." Bob retired from Little League managing after the Taiwan game. Having given a year to Aron and the All-Stars, he says he wants to devote more time this year to his older son, a 16-year-old sophomore who plays football and baseball for Irvine High. Bob's retirement from coaching has not kept him away from the action—he shouts advice as often as he did when he was the All-Stars' manager.
"Garcia!" he yelled to his younger son. "Can't you bring a clean shirt?" Aron, whose shirt was clean until he Peteyed across the plate, just smiled.
Between innings, Bob reflected on the motorcycle accident that wrecked his dreams of playing big league ball. "I never got to play ball the way I wanted to," he said. "The doctors said I'd never walk. Well, they were wrong. Now I play golf, I play softball, and one of these days I'm going to go to the ballpark and hear over the loudspeaker, 'Now batting, Aron Garcia.' That's all I want. I want to hear that name."
After the practice game, Aron showed a friend the three-inch raspberry-colored scar on the inside of his elbow. "My arm feels pretty good," he said. "Shortstop is O.K., but I want to pitch. When you pitch, everything circles around you. Everything that happens, you're included. I'm throwing hard. I've been working out with my dad, working out with Gregg [Colbert] a lot, and pretty soon they're going to let me pitch."
How's your fastball?
He grinned. "Maybe faster."
Maybe, says physical therapist Ken Yoshino, but biomechanically unsound nonetheless. "He was opening up too soon, dragging his elbow," Yoshino says. "If he had kept throwing that way, he would have hurt his arm again."
Yoshino took over Aron's rehabilitation early this year, scrapped Colbert's teachings and substituted a program called Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation, which includes weightlifting, football tossing and "mirror throwing"—watching oneself fire rolled-up socks at a mirror. A sports medicine specialist who has advised the Texas Rangers and Pittsburgh Pirates, Yoshino refrains from criticizing Colbert but says, "A lot of things young pitchers are being taught have been shown—by high-speed cinematography and current knowledge—to be wrong."
The challenge Aron's parents, friends, coaches and advisers face now, says Yoshino, is keeping the Comeback Kid off the mound without squelching his spirit. "We have all talked to him about it," says Yoshino. "He's very aggressive, and he wants to pitch, but it would be crazy for him to pitch now. I've told him that many pitchers who make it to the Show were position players when they were kids. They didn't wear down their arms. But Aron's like all teenage kids. He wants to live now."
"He's not a patient kid," Bob says. "You ask him if he'd rather win a Senior League game now or pitch in the pros someday, and he says he'd rather win the Senior League game."