Pitcher Jaime García will become the first Mexican hurler in 30 years to start a World Series game tonight when his St. Louis Cardinals take on the Texas Rangers in Game 2.
Former Los Angeles Dodgers star Fernando Valenzuela—who touched off the “Fernandomania” craze in Mexico and the U.S. in the early ‘80s with his youthful charm, diabolical screwball pitch and strong connection to the Latino community—was the last Mexican pitcher to start a game on baseball’s biggest stage on October 23, 1981 in Game 3 against the New York Yankees.
“That’s really exciting. Really feel very proud because of that,” the 25-year-old García, who was born in Reynosa, Mexico and raised in South Texas, told reporters during a pregame media session this week. “I’m thrilled to hear that, and I’m going to go out there and represent the team, my family and not only my hometown but the whole country of Mexico.”
“I know they’ve been really good, watching me the whole year in these playoffs, and I’m really proud of that,” he added.
Cardinals’ manager Tony LaRussa has complete faith in his young pitcher, especially after his team beat the Rangers 3-2 in the series opener on Wednesday night.
“In the two years he’s been with us, not only is he a very talented pitcher, but he’s pitched very well,” says LaRussa, who’s team signed García to a four-year, $27.5 million contract, plus club options for 2016 and 2017, earlier this year. “You have to remember that he is young, and there are times when he has an issue that he’s learning how to make the adjustments; two or three years from now, he’s going to get better and better.”
Even though Garcia has a ways to go before drawing comparisons to the legendary Valenzuela—who won 173 games over 15 Major League seasons—he can probably count on the same type of support from south of the border, St. Louis and beyond as he makes history tonight!