4-time Softball National Champion Martin F. Garcia of Wauconda Explains the Rise in Popularity of Softball in the Early 20th Century
Martin F. Garcia of Wauconda is a 4-time Softball National Champion, winning tournaments in Glendale Arizona, Crystal Lake Illinois, and South Bend Indiana among others. In his sports career, Mr. Garcia played shortstop, second base and third base, but recently has retired his own gameplay to help youth in the USSSA program grow as athletes and as individuals.
“Softball is an all-inclusive sport that follows many of the same rules as America’s favorite pastime,” says Martin F. Garcia of Wauconda. “It’s milder in some respects than baseball and a little less demanding on the player, but the rewards are all the same.”
Namely, he notes, camaraderie, activity, and healthy competition. Martin F. Garcia has been a volunteer coach for years where he’s led teams like the Lake County Lightning and the Wauconda Bulldogs to victory. His passion for softball extends all the way to the sports’ rich history and early origin in his home state of Illinois.
“We know the very day softball was first thought up,” says Martin Garcia of Wauconda. “Baseball was already a favorite sport in the late 19th-century when Yale and Harvard’s alumni discovered a new way to play inside the Farragut Boat Club of Chicago.”
Martin F. Garcia of Wauconda, IL is a national softball champion who shares his talent and love for sports as a volunteer coach and mentor in the USSSA. Below, Mr. Garcia explains the Chicago origins of softball and how it grew to be America’s most popular team sport.
The story goes that the alumni were eagerly awaiting the results of a rival Harvard-Yale football game when news came that Yale had outplayed Harvard, winning the game 17-8. One of the Yale supporters enthusiastically tossed an old boxing glove at nearby Harvard alumni who batted it back, giving George Hancock of the group a bright idea.
Hancock, a reporter for the Chicago Board of Trade, suggested that a game of indoor baseball could be played by using larger, softer objects than baseballs. He improvised, tying the laces of the boxing glove together to make a softball and drawing boundary lines and bases with chalk inside the Farragut Boat gym. The rival groups divided into teams and played the world’s very first softball game, coming out in a near tie.
They later played their new sport indoors and outdoors, gaining wide recognition from growing spectators with Hancock emerging as the recognized authority figure. Softball would keep growing in popularity each year and eventually expanded to a following of 40 million players, making it the No.1 team participant sport in the United States.
“Hancock built up the game with special rules to accommodate indoor play and attracted new sponsors and events,” says Martin F. Garcia of Wauconda. “But it was the tournament of 1935 when 70,000 spectators showed up to watch that turned the game into a national sensation. And it’s only gotten more popular since.”
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