Jarlin Garcia had barely begun playing baseball when he was 16 years old.
But that’s when everything changed.
Tragedy struck his family when his 3-year-old sister, Genesis Mabel, drowned in his hometown of Pedro Brand in the Dominican Republic.
“I felt like my family lost its happiness that day,” said Garcia, who still gets emotional when he speaks about his sister. “I just said from that day on that I would give them a reason to live and something to look forward to.”
Garcia poured his heart into the game and embarked on an eight-year journey that brought him to the major leagues.
And although making his debut as a reliever for the Miami Marlins last season was definitely a highlight, Garcia said his first career start against the New York Mets on Wednesday night will be the true realization of that dream.
“I’m really grateful to God and the Marlins organization for giving me this opportunity,” Garcia said. “I’ve been working on this dream for a long time and now it’s a reality.”
Garcia’s parents, Belkis Mercedes and Pedro Pablo, will be in attendance Wednesday to see him make his debut in the Marlins’ rotation.
But eight years ago, Garcia never thought of what it would be like to experience such a moment.
Despite growing up in a nation where baseball is revered, Garcia mostly played soccer growing up.
After his sister’s death, Garcia dedicated himself to baseball and quickly showed his talent.
The Marlins signed him in August 2010, but even then, it took him some time to prove his worth.
Not sure he would realize his full potential, the Marlins once made him eligible in the Rule 5 draft, but no other team selected him — allowing him to remain in the organization.
Garcia eventually became a full-time starter in the minors as he progressed from Low A to Double A from 2013 to 2016.
During that time, Garcia got the chance to pitch in the All-Star Futures Game in Cincinnati in 2015.
Garcia made his Marlins debut last season and quickly become one of their most reliable relievers. He made a team-high 68 appearances and went 1-2 with a 4.73 ERA in 53 1/3 innings.
Since the start of spring training, the Marlins said the plan was for Garcia to build up to be a starter. Although he didn’t break camp as part of the rotation, Garcia has made two key appearances out of the bullpen, including six scoreless innings when he allowed only one hit in a 17-inning win over the Chicago Cubs on March 30.
Garcia has always said he is willing to pitch in any role the Marlins need, but admitted there was a certain thrill about getting the chance to start.
“This is an opportunity I can’t waste,” Garcia said. “I’ve gone through a lot to get to this moment. It’s thanks to my family, our team, and all the people that believed in me.”
So Garcia will step on the mound Wednesday for the 71st time in his young career as a Marlins pitcher.
And once again, his sister will be foremost on his mind.
“I always have her on my mind,” Garcia said. “She’s my motivation and the reason I keep working hard every day to move forward.”