One of my first memories of Texas baseball was watching Chance Wheeless hit a walk-off home run against Baylor in the 2005 College World Series with a hurt shoulder that made it nearly impossible for him to hit earlier in the game. I was 8 years old at the time. Fast forward about 10 years and I am watching a short documentary about the 2005 National Championship team. They replay the walk-off home run and Augie Garrido is discussing why he chose to stick with Wheeless instead of turning to a pinch hitter, which he intended to do until Wheeless talked him out of it. Garrido praised Wheeless’ determination and confidence, despite his past results, and said he just wanted to see for himself what would happen if he let Chance get one more chance. Augie let players be heroes.
He was the ultimate player’s coach. He had a unique understanding of every player in his dugout, and how he could get the most out of them. He knew how to push boundaries and get through to players in ways no one else could. In 2009, Texas pitcher Austin Wood throw 12 ⅓ innings of scoreless relief in a 25 inning win against Boston College. Wood famously walked by Garrido and pitching coach Skip Johnson after one of his innings and said, “Don’t you even think about taking me out of his game.” Garrido rewarded determination and grit, traits that describe nearly every one of his Texas teams that made the trip to Omaha.
I never got the privilege of covering or interacting with Augie during his tenure at Texas, and that’s something I wish I could go back and change. I have been fortunate enough to know and talk to several people who did. The stories are legendary and as good as they come. There has never been a better college baseball coach than the one who wore the #16 jersey for 20 years in the Texas dugout and won a National Championship in 4 different decades.
When Augie first arrived at Texas in 1997, he was only the 4th head coach the program had seen since 1911. The Longhorns missed the NCAA tournament during his first 2 seasons, but went on to make 13 straight postseason appearances, including 7 trips to Omaha and 2 National Championships.
His sense of humor and wittiness made him one of the most well loved people in the game. After winning the 2005 National Championship, one of the first things Garrido mentioned during his postgame speech on ESPN was that he was looking for a new shortstop to replace the graduating Seth Johnston. It was just who Augie was.
Of course, there are the legendary videos of post game rants to his players and screaming at umpires, but that doesn’t paint the full picture of Augie as a baseball coach. While he wasn’t afraid to let his opinions be known, he did everything for a reason. The rants were never aimed at degrading his players, and nearly every one ended with Augie apologizing for letting his team down and not having them ready to play. One of the most famous videos is a locker room rant following a conference loss in 2006. The video ended with a note on the bottom that reads “Texas won their next 10 games and the Big 12 Championship.” His ability to light a fire under his players and get them to play for not only their coach, but for each other, is unparalleled.
He didn’t always have to get his point across by yelling either. Often times, he got his point across by breaking the game of baseball down into its simplest form. No one knew the mental side of a fragile game quite like he did.
If you ask a casual Texas fan about Augie’s time in Austin, they will almost assuredly bring up how often he bunted. The Longhorns were almost always one of the nation’s leaders in sacrifice bunts. This played into the philosophy of what made Garrido so successful. He believed playing with a lead would force the other team to press and make mistakes, and often times he was right. A special brand of baseball was played in Austin for 2 decades, a brand that demanded doing the little things right and giving up yourself for the betterment of the team.
The mark left on college baseball by Augie Garrido may be something that is never fully understood by a lot people, myself included. Yesterday, on Twitter, Garrido’s former players reacted to the news of his passing at 79 years old. Their memories of Augie often had very little to do with wins and losses, but more to do with the way he shaped them as baseball players and young men. This world needs more men like Augie Garrido.