Baseball: Ryan Garko
May 4, 2002
About a year ago, catcher Ryan Garko jokingly asked broadcaster Chad Goldberg of KZSU to include the title 'budding superstar' before his name. Garko promptly went on a hot streak and the name quickly took hold. The moniker spread from the radio broadcasts to newspaper articles and finally developed into Garko's team nickname, 'Bud'.
Garko, who said the nickname started as a joke, has grown into the title. He finished last season with a .368 batting average, seven home runs and 43 RBI in 59 games. During the postseason Garko had many highlights, including catching the ceremonial first pitch thrown by President George W. Bush at the College World Series and performing in the clutch during several Cardinal victories. He earned All-College World Series honors with a team-high .583 batting average, going 7-for-12, scoring five runs, hitting two home runs and tallying four RBI. He was also named the Co-Most Outstanding Player at the NCAA Regional and had a two-RBI single in the eighth inning to put Stanford ahead for good in a 4-3 win over Texas in the second championship game of the Regional.
After his incredible finish last season and his standout performance in Omaha, the Cardinal has come to rely on Garko.
'This year I came in as an established player and the expectations were higher, but I also have more experience and I am more confident in myself,' said Garko, who is hitting .317 with 36 RBI. 'I am starting to drive in runs and be an offensive factor in our games.'
Garko has also hit eight home runs this season, surpassing his home run total from last year, including one that he calls his season highlight. Garko hit a two-run walk-off home run against Santa Clara on February 24, to lift the Cardinal to an 8-7 victory.
While leading the Cardinal to victory on the field, Garko also tries to be a leader off the field and give advice and encouragement to the younger players on the team.
'I tell them to look at it in the long-term,' said the junior. 'I look back at my freshman year when I didn't get to play much in games but got the chance to learn from guys like John Gall, Joe Borchard, and Edmund Muth. I am a better player now from watching them play, especially watching them go through the good times and the bad times and seeing how they handled success.'
As the everyday catcher this year, Garko also has the task of encouraging and focusing the Cardinal's deep and talented pitching staff.
'Catching all the time is physically demanding, but I've tried to help the pitching staff. I just try to call a good game and get the best out of those guys,' said Garko, who has started all 43 of Stanford's games this season.
'I have a good time out there and it's fun. If something needs to be said, I will go out there and do it, but I won't get in anyone's face.'
While teaching and learning from his teammates, Garko has been most inspired by another Cardinal, head coach Mark Marquess.
'Coach Marquess has built this program into what it is now,' said the California native. 'He is a great teacher and coach and I appreciate all that he has done for us. He is such a stand-up guy and I hope that whatever I do in life, I can have as much enthusiasm for it as Coach Marquess does for this team.'
For now, Garko's enthusiasm and energy is focused on baseball and with his offensive production, reliable catching and leadership skills, it is safe to say that Ryan Garko has bloomed to shed the first part of his self-ascribed moniker and has come into his own as a Cardinal superstar.
by Amanda Canevaro
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