Augie Garrido and ESPN's Tom Hart.

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Hart: The True Essence Of Augie Garrido

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Tom Hart is the lead announcer for SEC Network and ESPN College Baseball coverage

I spent a week in Waco with a living legend: Augie Garrido.

I didn’t know what to expect. I had met the winningest coach in college baseball before. He was almost fired in 2014. They sent his underachieving team to Houston as the two seed in a regional with host Rice and rival Texas A&M. He won the damn thing. Pitching great Ben McDonald and I ran into him outside of the press room after the final game. If the exact words weren’t “they can stick that trophy up their ass”, then the message was close enough. The next thing you know, Augie and the Longhorns were back in Omaha.

But this was going to be different. I was going to spend a week in a cramped broadcast booth with this bombastic personality and baseball royalty. I had no idea what was coming.

Augie was always a fighter. That much was obvious. I had seen the highlights. The brow beating of umpires. The motivational tactics in the locker room. Nothing was understated. He had to win. He needed to win. He had something to prove. 

He wanted to prove to his 1975 Fullerton team that they were talented enough to win. He wanted to prove to Rod Dedeaux that he had a better team. (He wanted to prove to the USC organ player that the Titans could win without a traditional school fight song – China Grove would have to do). He won. They won. The hardscrabble bunch went through the mighty Trojans and ended up in Omaha.

We arrived in Waco to televise a Little League World Series regional. This would be a baseball and television marathon. We had four games a day, temperatures in the 100s, an overworked window AC unit and a cramped broadcast booth. To make up for it, we had eight teams of 13-year-olds that were consumed with the game and a television crew that cared just as much. Our crew was made up mainly of Longhorn Network staff. They covered University of Texas baseball every day. They knew and respected Augie.

That first morning we were Augie-less. The production meeting was to start promptly at 8:00 a.m. No Augie. We began without him. Without 1,975 wins. Without 5 National Titles. Without something to prove.

At roughly 8:10, a pair of black loafers slapped against the hotel tile. Hair buzzed short, Augie Garrido arrived the same way John Wayne would if he had a morning meeting at the Hotel Indigo and wore Peter Millar shorts. He dominated.

The week in Waco was a blast. I remember an overmatched team from Miami, Okla. Their third baseman was Tater. He danced on the bag during pitching changes. Arkansas had a left fielder called Pork Chop. He looks exactly as you imagine. This was a week for people who loved baseball. It was perfect.

During the day, Augie could be found entertaining the crew in the trailers, discussing tailgating recipes with families from New Orleans, or dissecting BBQ with Waco restaurateurs. At night, he entertained all of us with stories.

I learned everything from Augie that week. When given a choice on a public speaking tour, order the Chicken Fried Chicken over the Chicken Fried Steak (chicken holds moisture better). Take the Audi over the BMW (it has more cup holders). I learned about Bay Area think tanks (our best minds doing their best work). I learned how to choose a steak (buy the bone-in rib eye). I learned why bunts were more important than what they provided via run expectancy (it’s the ultimate individual sacrifice).

Augie Garrido bonded with the ESPN crew during his week in Waco, Texas. (Tom Hart)

“People are motivated by fear,” he explained to ESPN’s Ryan McGee in the fall of ’08. “Not fear like ‘I’m going to beat you up if you don’t do this,’ but fear of failure. It’s the great internal battle every athlete and coach has to fight. On one side you have expectations and the other you have failure. Which do you allow to push you in one direction or the other? The fear of expectation or the excitement of expectation? Does the fear of failure motivate you to do whatever it takes not to fail, or does the fear cause you to fail? I’m talking about baseball here. But I’m also talking about life.”

He may have told Ryan that while sitting in the dugout at Rosenblatt Stadium. Or over a plate of pasta at Lo Sole Mio. Or over a steak at the Drover. But I’m fairly certain he said those exact same words to me while sitting in a little league press box in Waco, Texas.

We shared a booth for a week. We shared thoughts, dreams, desires and regrets.

He is a one of a kind storyteller. I heard about Kevin Costner and fashion week, about Saudi Princes and their yachts, George Steinbrenner and his loyalty. I learned about Texas BBQ (always order the brisket) and the proper way to cook that bone-in ribeye (on a cast iron skillet, seared to the highest temperature possible). His passions ran deep on every subject, but nothing made his eyes light up like the thought of his niece.

He once was asked to raise a few dollars for her private school. He called in the heavy hitters and ended up with more signed jerseys than Cooperstown. Former players sent their most prized possessions. Friends reached deep into their pockets. It was the most successful fundraiser in the school’s history.

He had something to prove from day one. Augustus. A Roman statesman and military leader. The first Roman emperor.

He drove his Fullerton team to practice. He drove them to games. He drove them all the way to Omaha. He reveled in doing more with less. His players didn’t have dress shoes, let alone coat and tie. Then, when he arrived at Texas, the school with more than anyone, he was embarrassed when they didn’t take advantage.

When the athletic director complained about having enough money for the football program, Augie’s response was simple. “You need a million dollars? Pick up the phone! We can have a dump truck unload a million dollars in the end zone by the end of business today”. 

That same AD made a comment about keeping up with the Joneses.

“Keeping up with the Joneses?!” he bellowed. “Hell, we ARE the Joneses!”

Our days in Waco were full of baseball, our nights were consumed with camaraderie. If a player committed an error (this was Little League, there were plenty), Augie discussed the finer points of psychology.

“He’s embarrassed. He feels he let his team and his friends down. When you’re embarrassed, it’s hard to bounce back”.

How true.

We spent the downtime between games discussing life. Family, relationships, religion. When was the last time you talked religion with a stranger? We covered it all.

When discussing postgame plans on the first day in Waco, Augie learned that the town would be closed by the time we left the little league stadium. So, he asked the production assistant if she had a reliable cooler. Then he handed her a couple of crisp $100 bills with a simple request: “Make sure the crew has whatever they want. And make sure there’s a bottle of Tito’s.”

Drinking beer on a hotel patio in the sweltering Texas heat with a legend has benefits. I have more stories from that week than I can remember. It also has its drawbacks.  The 9 a.m. production meetings didn’t come without their cobwebs. Augie laughed.

“You look like shit.”

I last saw him in June at the College World Series. He wanted to take our crew to dinner. He made so many friends in Omaha, and he wanted to show his appreciation for them and for us. We met at his favorite Italian restaurant. It’s the one with his picture hanging near the front door. He had a private room set up for us on a Sunday night. He wanted to talk baseball. He wanted to be with friends.

It’s now mid-March. College baseball is in full swing. Conference play for most begins this weekend. We are without his 1,975 wins. We are without a Five-Time National Champion.  We are without Augie.

Rest easy my friend, there is nothing more to prove.

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