Commentary: Former players remember Garrido's time at UT

Credit: Rodolfo Gonzalez

Credit: Rodolfo Gonzalez

Augie Garrido led Texas baseball to dizzying heights over his 20 years here but a new coach with fewer than 1,975 career wins will run the show in 2017 and beyond.

The dugout will be different but the memories Garrido created in that place will remain.

His players understand the business of winning and aren't blind to the struggles their coach's teams faced over the last couple of seasons.

They also know that his legacy will live on. Expect to see a statue erected in his honor at the Disch next season. The packed trophy cases aren't going anywhere. Most important, his stamp on this program will never fade, just like coach Cliff Gustafson's stamp never faded from his 29-year tenure.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitcher Huston Street will never forget being in Omaha in 2002 and listening to Garrido's words before Texas' opener against Rice.

"The world treats winners a lot different than it treats losers," Garrido said before walking out the door.

"I was this 18-year-old kid who was just getting started," Street said. "My dad (Texas legend James Street) was always thankful to be on a winning team but he didn't want it to define him. That was the importance of what Augie was relaying to us at that moment."

Street saved all four wins in Omaha. It was Garrido's first of two national titles at Texas.

In his peak era of 2002 through 2005, Garrido's teams were always the most prepared on the field and Texas sandwiched a pair of national championships with a runner-up finish in 2004. The Horns were a college baseball dynasty and Augie was the self-deprecating king who was always cool enough to joke about himself, whether it was about his age or a valet tinkering with his headlights the night he was charged with a DWI.

We got a glimpse of the competitive fire that burned in Garrido's belly during Richard Linklater's 2008 all-access documentary "Inning by Inning: Portrait of a Coach." Perhaps the most talked-about part of the film was Garrido's infamous profanity-laced postgame locker-room tirade that came after a loss to Nebraska.

"Everybody always asks me about that YouTube video ...," said Texas Rangers outfielder Drew Stubbs. "He was usually pretty calm and collected, which allowed us to think clearly. He was very passionate about leading us as a team and taught us about the mental side of the game and good preparation."

Philadelphia Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp recalled Texas falling behind 6-0 after three innings to Arizona State in the 2009 College World Series, the same year he caught all 25 innings of the epic playoff win over Boston College.

Current St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Mike Leake was on the mound for the Sun Devils and had the Horns on a string for the first three frames. Garrido called a quick dugout meeting before Texas batted in the fourth.

"He told us that we were going to win the game," Rupp said. "I'll never forget the confident look on is face. He was so calm. He knew."

Rupp homered with Brandon Belt aboard in the fourth and the Horns erupted for six runs. The 10-6 win remains one of Rupp's proudest memories of his coach.

"It was the little things that separated his teams from other teams," he said. "Doing things right, two-out hitting. Those things mattered to him."

The Augie influence hit Street in 2006 when he entered a game with the scored tied in the bottom of the ninth at the Ballpark in Arlington. He was in his second season with the Oakland Athletics and was really enjoying some good mentoring from teammate Mark Kotsay, who played for Garrido at Cal State Fullerton.

That night in the Metroplex took on even more significance when Phil Nevin stepped up to the plate with two outs. It was the same Phil Nevin who had telephoned Garrido, his coach at Fullerton, three years earlier on the night Street notched a second save in rainy Tallahassee to earn the defending national champion Horns another trip to Omaha.

Nevin stepped into the box mired in an 0-for-17 slump. It wasn't by choice but Street served as the slump buster that night. Nevin deposited his offering over the centerfield wall to give the Rangers an 8-7 walk-off win. As you may imagine, Street wasn't exactly in a talking mood following the game but accepted an invite to hang out in Kotsay's room.

"I walked in and Nevin was sitting there with a grin on his face," Street said. "We talked about Augie for the rest of the night."

The love from his former players goes far beyond the game. Garrido rarely missed a wedding or event held by his pupils. It was a side of Garrido we rarely witnessed as members of the media but his support of his guys was unwavering once they earned his respect, which wasn't always given.

"You could hit the ball to the moon but if you didn't run out a routine ground ball, you couldn't play on his team," Street said. "He was the quintessential winner and a friend. Sometimes, what gets lost in this modern-day approach to remembrance and appreciation is you forget the service and the loyalty. Twenty years as a head baseball coach. The national title runs. If I can stress anything, it's that we appreciate him now and not let five or 10 years go by to honor him, because he was amazing."

No need to worry about that, Huston.

Augie's former players are a lasting tribute to his life's work.