October 11, 2011

Garcia and the slugger

More news about: Cal Lutheran
Ryan Braun and Cal Lutheran assistant coach Ed Garcia, in a 2005 photo.

Cal Lutheran running backs coach Ed Garcia saw his top running back Daniel Mosier gain 138 yards on 11 carries and score three touchdowns in the Kingsmen's 56-0 thrashing of Whittier on Saturday.

The night before he watched from afar one one of the other people he has coached -- Milwaukee Brewers star Ryan Braun -- help push his team into the National League Championship Series as Milwaukee topped the Arizona Diamondbacks in the fifth and decisive game of the National League Division Championship Series.

Among his years of coaching, Garcia used to instruct youth league baseball to Braun when he played in the North Valley Baseball Group in Grenada Hills, Calif. as a youth. He also coached Braun's brother Steve, a former minor leaguer in the Brewers system. Garcia and Joe Braun, who also coached youth baseball and is Steve and Ryan's father -- are best friends. Joe Braun normally attends all of the Cal Lutheran football games -- with the exception of this season with Ryan starring in the playoffs.

"I'm lucky to see this guy make it this far and to still be who he is," Ed Garcia said of Ryan Monday afternoon before preparing for the Kingsmen's practice and to watch the Brewers play the St. Louis Cardinals that evening in Game 2 of the NLCS.

Garcia makes it a point to make sure he views Braun's games, mainly while wearing Brewers clothing -- especially on one of the biggest stages in sports. Garcia usually catches Braun when he's in the Los Angeles or San Diego vicinity. His one road trip was to Boston to see the Brewers play the Red Sox at historic Fenway Park. If the Brewers were to advance to the World Series, Garcia doesn't know if he would go or not.

"I have a pretty big commitment here, " Garcia said "I would play it by ear, it would be tough to get away, but I would love to go."

Garcia made sure that he emphasized that the chance of the Brewers making their first World Series appearance since 1982 wasn't an absolute possibility. As of Tuesday the NLCS is tied at 1-1.

"You have to treat it like every play is 0-0," Garcia said. "You have to take one at bat at a time, one pitch at a time, one inning at a time."

Similar to when Cal Lutheran topped Redlands the previous week, taking a 24-0 halftime deficit and parlaying it to score 28 unanswered points to earn the thrilling 28-24 victory. Among other congratulatory messages one was waiting for him in the form of a text message from Ryan.

"He's a kid that's (become) big time and hasn't forgotten his roots," Garcia said. "That's what I think is neat about him."

Garcia remembers the days when Ryan used to spend a whole day at the little league park with his father and himself and still would want to hit the ball long after the day was winding down. Ryan also expressed his interest in a DARE video for school as a fifth grader stating he wanted to be a MLB player.

"We'd go out to dinner, myself and my wife and Joe and Diane," Garcia said. "After we'd leave, he'd say 'Dad I want to go hit' and it would be 8-830 at night.' Joe would say no. Then he would come up to me and ask me 'Take me to go hit,' Then I would say, 'We've got to shut down.' From day one he could always hit. He's worked his tail off to be where he's at."

Ryan has been one the league's best players this season as he was second in the majors with a .332 batting average along with cracking 33 home runs and producing 111 RBIs and swiping 33 bases. He was the first Brewers player to join the 30-30 club since Tommy Harper did it in 1970.

Those extra sessions on beach vacations may have stemmed that as well.

"Ryan would get a little stick on the beach and basically it would be a branch and he'd pick up and hit seashells, rocks and seaweed," Garcia said. "He could hit them, where lot kids would try it and they couldn't do it."

Ryan has been getting strong consideration by a variety of publications for the National League's Most Valuable Player. If Garcia had a vote, it would be Ryan hands down.

"I'm as happy as I really can be for him," Garcia said. "I'm proud of him, elated. Personally for what he's done, he deserves the MVP -- that's my biased opinion," Garcia said.

Wartburg wins wild IIAC shootout

Defending IIAC champion Wartburg took a giant step towards another league title as it took Dubuque's best shot and barely prevailed in a 42-39 victory for the Spartans homecoming. It was the first loss of the season for Dubuque.

"I don't remember ever being part of a game like this," Wartburg coach Rick Willis said, who is in his 13th season as Knights coach. "It had a little bit of everything. A lot of back and forth action. When you look back on it, it's kind of fun. When you're trying to go through it you're just trying to respond to the other team."

The Knights secured a little breathing room in the games final minutes when Connor Dahlstrom darted 68 yards for a touchdown to go up 42-31, but Willis wasn't exactly exhaling.

"When he scored everybody felt like it would be hard for them to overcome," Willis said. "We still had a lot of work to do after that touchdown to get the win. Normally you would feel pretty good with a lead like that. The way that game was, it proved no lead was safe."

Dubuque came back to score with 1:17 remaining when Michael Zweifel caught a 14-yard pass from Wyatt Hanus and then the two hooked up on a subsequent 2-point conversion. The game wasn't finished as the Spartans stopped the Knights on four plays and had a chance at the end, but the clock ran out with the ball on the Spartans' 38. The game concluded with 1,064 yards of offense (593 for Dubuque, 471 for Wartburg).

"I certainly expected it to be one of those days where it would be a tremendous challenge," Willis said. "They're a talented team playing with a lot of confidence and we were on the road for their homecoming. Frankly we didn't get off to good start, but I'm proud of guys for the way they were fighting and that was probably the biggest thing."

The win by the Knights muddied up the league's waters as the Knights, Spartans, Central and Coe are all 3-1 in the conference. Simpson is one game back at 2-2.

"I think our league does have a lot of parity," Willis said. "Every week there is tough ballgames. If you're not ready to go or don't quite play as well, you can get beat any time. That's what makes it a great challenge, what makes the Iowa Conference a great league."

Behind the number

2 - Times UW-Oshkosh - who just cracked the D3football.com Top 25 at No. 25 - will play the last two defending national champions. The Titans were stopped 41-17 on Sept. 10 by Mount Union and will host UW-Whitewater on Oct. 22.

Josh Smith photo

Josh Smith has covered Division III sports for more than five years. He writes for multiple publications, including D3football.com beginning in 2012. He has won multiple awards for reporting and photography and lives in southern Wisconsin near UW-Whitewater, where he graduated with a degree in print journalism.

2011-12 columns: Jason Galleske
2010: Tim Walsh
2003-09: Adam Johnson
1999-2000: Don Stoner 

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