Up Close and Personal with Matt Garza

Fresno, CA, USA Before the season began Matt Garza admits even he had doubts just how competitive the Tampa Bay Rays would be. Traded last winter by the Twins, the ex-Bulldog says it took him a couple of months to just settle into his role with his new team. "In the beginning I was trying to live up to the trade. Bu in the second half it I was more relaxed and I wasn't worried about trying to be somebody else," Garza says.

But that's not to say there weren't some growing pains along the way. The former first round pick with a rising fastball was also aware reputation as a guy who had trouble dialing down his emotions at times. and it all came to a head back June in a road game against the Rangers. A toe-to-toe altercation with his catcher that went from the mound and into the club house. "It was a huge time in my career and my life. I had to change something. I was always known for my fastball, but my "M.O. was that I had a pretty bad temper."

The next day Garza sought advice from his manager and soon after he was back on track. Pounding the strike zone with lazer like effectiveness. And like all good pitchers Garza got better later in the year. Pitching the Rays all the way to the playoffs. Once there the pride of Washington Union shined. Winning both starts against the Red Sox on his way to nailing down the AL Championship Series MVP. "When Miss Autry presented me the award I had no idea I was the MVP. I was like really? No way? It was sweet."

The Rays may have fallen short in their attempt to win the World Series, but the emptiness from not winning it all has seemed to only burn Garza's fire even more. "It was one heck of a run. Too bad it ended without us having the rings."

In three seasons in pro ball Garza has pitched in some of baseball's biggest pressure cookers. But last Saturday at a small valley church the adrenaline and nerves Garza experienced were like none he ever felt before. --It was his wedding day. "I was in the back of the church just pale. I've never been that nervous. My stomach was in knots and I was like what I'm I doing."

But just as he's done so many times on the mound Garza settled down and allowed his instincts to take over. "When I saw my bride I knew I had made the right decision and I was ready to do this"


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