Fresh From Success, Garciaparra Still Playing

TACOMA, Wash. - Michael Garciaparra was en route to his offseason home, thinking his 2005 season was over. But then his phone rang.

"I was finished playing and driving to Arizona when I got a call asking me if I wanted to come play in Tacoma," said Garciaparra.

Garciaparra had just wrapped up his finest season as a pro, hitting .298 with Inland Empire. The former first round pick had a career high with six home runs for the 66ers, and also set a career mark for extra-base hits.

Still, it was a series of unexpected events that brought Garciaparra to Tacoma to extend his season. Ramon Santiago was called up to Seattle to replace Michael Morse on the Mariners' roster after Morse was suspended for violating MLB's banned substance policy.

This left the Rainiers, who had already lost three middle infielders to call-ups this season, once again short up the middle. And so the Rainiers turned to Garciaparra, the second middle infielder they have asked to make the jump from Class A ball to Triple-A this season.

Upon getting the call, the younger brother of all-star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra reacted like most young ballplayers would. He got on the telephone.

"I called my parents first, and after that I called my girlfriend," Garciaparra said. "She lives in Arizona and I was going to see her."

It was an unexpected way for Garciaparra's season to end. Coming into the year nobody knew what to expect from the 22-year-old after two straight disappointing seasons. Last season Garciaparra hit only .226 in 70 games. His second season in the California League was vastly different.

"I'm a lot more comfortable, and a lot more confident," Garciaparra explained. "I've been a lot more patient this year at the plate. I'm getting more comfortable at second base and not feeling like I have to do so much."

It's likely that Michael Garciaparra will not be asked to do much for the Rainiers in the postseason. So far he has only been asked to pinch-hit and pinch-run by Tacoma manager Dan Rohn. But he's ready and willing to contribute any way he can.

"Whatever I'm asked to do I just want to go in there and do it," said Garciaparra.

Whether or not he makes a contribution to the Rainiers post-season, Michael Garciaparra's call-up is a fitting end to a season where he silenced a lot of his critics. If he can continue the success he has fought so hard to display this season, he may find himself back in Tacoma. Next time for a much longer stay, and for much more practical reasons.

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