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Canyon Hills Chronicle

The Student News Site of Canyon Hills High School

Canyon Hills Chronicle

The Student News Site of Canyon Hills High School

Canyon Hills Chronicle

Rachel Garcia’s Journey to Becoming the Greatest Softball Player Ever

Not long ago, UCLA pitcher Rachel Garcia, was on the field shortly after she had won her first national championship with UCLA. That year was already tough as it was, with many ups and downs, and many obstacles. Little did the UCLA Bruins know that the National Championship win was the light at the end of the tunnel. 


Where is Rachel now? She is a coach here in SoCal, for the company DropBombs. She is a hitting and pitching coach and she loves what she does. She also helps girls like myself, Hal’e Martin, learn how to frame and be a catcher at the collegiate level. The best part about Rachel being here in SoCal is that a lot of the girls that watched her on TV during her time at UCLA, and now those girls have her as a hitting coach. During the summer she is playing pro ball for Athletes Unlimited along with a couple of the other softball greats such as Sis Bates and former teammate, Bubba Nickles. Owner of DropBombs, Lindsey Gorman, loves having Rachel be a part of the DropBombs coaching staff as she brings another level of intensity to the game as she is very fresh out of college. She knows what it takes to be the best in the nation, as she once was after she won the National Championship in 2019.


Rachel’s journey started in Palmdale, CA. She started playing softball at the age of 7. Her cousins inspired her because she saw them playing and wanted to play too. On top of her cousins’ influence, she grew up around the fields as her parents played slow-pitch adult softball. Around the age of 10, she wanted to start playing more competitively and started travel ball but it took her a while to find the right fit for her, eventually, she settled with the Cal Thunder Organization. While she was playing for Cal Thunder she played against Corona Angels, which is a well-known organization around the U.S., whose owner is one of the most respected coaches in the softball world, Coach Marty Tyson. Rachel hadn’t thought about moving teams since Cal Thunder was a great fit for her, but Coach Tyson had other plans. He recruited her to play on his team. Her first thought of Coach Tyson was “WOW”. Her thought was “He is so unorganized but organized at the same time.” When Coach Tyson went to visit Rachel, he had never seen her play, but his coaches that saw her play in that friendly told Coach Tyson that she was worth the visit. After a great conversation, with Coach Tyson, Rachel had told her parents that she wanted to take the fall off to decide if she wanted to fully commit to playing high-level travel ball. It was one of the best decisions Rachel could have made as that fall let her enjoy being a kid.


Once Rachel joined the Angels, it was a full-time job. She loved that everyone on the team was on the same page as her and had one goal in mind; to play college softball. “I will be forever grateful for that man…” is what Rachel said about Coach Marty,  “The love he has for his athletes is unconditional. Outsiders looking in would always ask my family how I could play for a man like that when he’s constantly yelling at us, but little did they know he was just a giant teddy bear.” Any time the Angels were out of state, Tyson knew how to have a good time, he would take the girls to a haunted house in New York, throw 4th of July parties in hotel parking lots, and even take the girls to Lake Tahoe. Softball was business to Tyson but he still wanted the girls to enjoy the game that they love. Even as an alumnus of the Angels organization, Coach Tyson still checks up on the girls.

Rachel Garcia at Highland High School in Palmdale, CA (MaxPreps)

Now getting into Garcia’s high school experience, it was not anything different from most high school softball experiences. The conference they were in was not anything special, there weren’t all the top players in the conference but each year they got close to winning a championship. Garcia had some incredible high school stats as she hit .593 career with 44 home runs, 20 of them in her senior year and that’s just from an offensive side. From a pitching standpoint, she had a career 0.48 ERA with 83 complete games, 9 no-hitters, and 1315 strikeouts in her 4 years at Highland High School. Garcia loved her high school seasons every year as her family could always come to watch her.

When she was getting recruited, Garcia knew what she wanted. The recruiting process was the most stressful thing anyone could ever go through. She knew she wanted to stay close to home by going to a Pac-12 school, but she also looked at the furthest SEC schools. Her dream was to always be a UCLA Bruin, but looking at all these other schools made her think about the future of her post-college life. As a 15-year-old at the time, Garcia had no idea what she wanted to do, even now as an adult, she still doesn’t know what she wants to do. She loved visiting each school but UCLA felt like home, and she felt like she could develop not just as an athlete but also as a person. That was the most important to Garcia. She loved the atmosphere of UCLA, the alumni were strong on giving back, and her family was still close enough to watch her during her time at UCLA. It took her about a year to make her decision on where she was going to attend college and continue to play softball for at least 4 more years but UCLA made the most sense for Garcia and her family.


Garcia’s first two years at UCLA were a struggle but she wouldn’t change the path. Garcia went in with an injury, her first week on campus she just had surgery to have her ACL repaired. She had no clue what her path would be as a college freshman, but she was up for the challenge. She spent 4 hours in the training room every day on top of weights, team practices, and classes. Through rehab for her ACL, Garcia re-tore her meniscus and after that, she decided to redshirt as a freshman, not only because it would be a while before she was back on the field but also because she wasn’t ready mentally. But reflecting on her experience, she wouldn’t want her first year to go any other way. Her second year (her redshirt freshman year) was more of a learning year than anything, mostly learning about who she was as a person and athlete. She was playing in a knee brace and still getting used to the recovery process of her knee. Mentally it was a crutch to get through even though she didn’t need it. The year went great for her and the team. UCLA made it to the World Series and Garcia was named freshman of the year. She even hit the first home run of her college career at the World Series. Was Garcia in the best shape; no, but she knew that the summer would be her time to get back and ready to get back to Oklahoma City again and hopefully win the National Championship the second time around. Garcia and the Bruins went back to the World Series every year she attended UCLA.


The year 2018 was a good year for Garcia, not only did she win Player of the Year, she was also named Pac 12 Pitcher of the Week four times, and she was also named Player of the Week twice. Garcia was also named to the USA Softball National Team World Championship roster, where she had a 1.05 ERA with 13 strikeouts, over 6 2/3 innings at the WBSC Women’s World Championship, helping the U.S win gold and qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo while also hitting .400 with 3 RBIs. Against the host, Japan, she earned the win in the circle and produced a walk-off RBI single, to send the U.S. to the gold medal game, she also won gold at the International Cup, posting a 1.31 ERA with 11 strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings.


2019 was an even better year for Garcia. She received many awards including Woman Athlete of the Year, USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year, and Pitcher of the Year in both the Pac 12 and NFCA. Garcia was also nominated for an ESPY for Female Athlete of the Year and the James E. Sullivan Award. Garcia was also named the MVP at the Women’s College World Series, going 5-0 in the circle with a 1.75 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 36 innings. Garcia won gold medals with the USA Softball Women’s National Team at the USA Softball International Cup, the Pan American Games, and the Japan Cup. She pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings in four games at the International Cup while hitting .353, with 3 RBIs, and also did not allow a run in 8 1/3 innings at the Pan American Games. The best part of 2019 was that UCLA won the National Championship. It was a moment and feeling Garcia will never forget. It was a year of highs and lows. She had lost her grandfather earlier that year so she dedicated the entire 2019 season to him. She pitched and played with the word “PAPA” on her visor so he could be with her the entire way. In the last game of the Championship, it was tied in the bottom of the seventh, and Garcia knew that this Bruins team was going to pull through no matter what. The 2019 UCLA Bruins were a special team. Garcia said “Watching Kinsley (Washington) hit the winning run in from second was a nail biter no doubt with how close the play was at the plate. We all ran out there to the dog pile and all I could remember being towards the bottom was the tears of joy, happiness, and hard work.” Even Garcia thinking about the 2019 National Championship makes her tear up.

The UCLA Bruins after their 2019 National Championship win in June 2019 (USA Today)

2020 and 2021 were just as good for Garcia. In 2020, she was named to the Team USA Olympics team, while she redshirted at UCLA. She was named the 2019 LA Sports Award Sportswoman of the Year in January and a finalist for the 2019 Women’s Sports Foundation Sportswoman of the Year Award. 2021 was Garcia´s final year at UCLA, Garcia was named the back-to-back winner of the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year Award and the prestigious Honda Cup, as well as the Honda Sports Award winner for Softball for the third time is one of just three student-athletes ever to be named a two-time winner of the Honda Cup and the first to win the award outright twice. 

Garcia in Tokyo with Team USA in Summer 2020 (Sports Illustrated)

When it comes to playing in the Olympics and professionally with Athletes Unlimited, Garcia enjoys it. “Playing in the Olympics is an honor. Wearing those three letters across your chest means so much more than this game. Being in the village and walking around seeing some of the best of the best athletes in the world all in one place just puts you in awe because you´re one of those athletes. It was super amazing seeing all of Team USA cheer each other on no matter what sport they were watching.” Now when it comes to Athletes Unlimited, Garcia was the captain of a team. She was a top point scorer which allowed her to be a captain. She was named a captain the week of 6/12/23 and 8/4/23. “AU is also just an awesome season. The players there are all welcoming and I do believe it is a start for Women’s softball in the United States. The talent there is high and the expectations to perform are at the top.”


Garcia is now a coach here in San Diego, she decided to come back to SoCal because she is initially from Southern California. She also moved to San Diego to coach at San Diego State University and the University of California San Diego. Garcia wanted to give the coaching side of the game a try. Now she is a coach for DropBombs, a local company here in San Diego but also well-known in the U.S. when it comes to hitting and pitching lessons. Giving lessons is nothing new for Garcia as she gave lessons in high school so she could pass along her experiences and knowledge to the next generation.


There are many people out there calling Garcia the greatest softball player to ever play. Garcia said it is truly an honor, it is the reason she continues to stay involved in the sport and to help inspire young athletes to stay in softball. There is so much that the sport of softball gives and Garcia wants to give it back.


Some of Garcia’s best advice to young girls who want to play softball in college is “Never be afraid of failure. We only get to play so much softball in this lifetime. Embrace the hard and get 1% better each time you are out there.”


Rachel Garcia will forever go down in not only UCLA Softball history but will forever be known as a softball great.

Rachel Garcia and myself after catching her bullpen in October 2023 (Hal’e Martin)
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