A local tale of soccer fields, loss and a great family

An artist rendition of the field; a dedication and ground breaking is scheduled for tonight in Dallas.

Freddie Garcia, Freddy Garcia, and a befitting legacy

Two things our land can never have enough of: good kids like Freddy Garcia, and proper places to enjoy our game.

Indulge me while I tell you quick story about both.

I played a Sunday league game about 10 or so years ago. On a corner kick, there was as little jostling and maybe a little shirt pulling and something was said and, well, I responded. I said something quite unkind.  

Immediately, I thought, “I’m not one of these Sunday league jackasses who takes all this too seriously!”  

So at the final whistle I found that same guy, quickly realizing he was quite a bit older than me.  Which made me feel worse, of course.  I apologized and told the guy I was out of line and shouldn’t have said something like that. He looked at me like I had a horn growing out of my head. Then he put a gentle arm around my shoulder while we walked off the field, smiled a big, genuine smile and said,  “That’s just part of the game. Don’t worry about it.”

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was having a moment with a guy I actually knew, one I had watched as a kid. His name was Freddie Garcia. He had played seven years for the old Dallas Tornado back in the day.

Right there, he taught me about the ability to love the game while also loving to compete at the game. It ain’t necessarily personal, you see. “That’s just part of the game.” 

Turns out, he was an older fellow playing on this particular team for one reason. Even though he was easily the experienced man on the field, he wanted the chance to play with his son.

His son was also Freddy Garcia (spelled a bit differently). Young Freddy was, well, pretty young at the time. But he was already training with FC Dallas. Since he was just training, he could play in the Sunday leagues. Young Freddy was far too good to be on the field with me and others like me, but he was there for one reason: he enjoyed playing once a week with his father. 

Freddy knew me and always found me before those Sunday games, or when I visited FC Dallas training. It was never “Steve.” It was always “Mr. Davis.” Even when I asked him to call me Steve, it was like a silly scene from a TV show. He’d say “OK” and smile. And the next time it was always going to be “Mr. Davis.”

Freddy knew his way around the soccer, quick, skillful and unselfish. The last game I played against him a few years ago, I was sweeper when he scored a game-winner near the final whistle with two high quality touches, directing a centering ball away from pressure (me!) inside the penalty area and finishing with a second high-quality touch. Afterward, he found me, gave me a nice hug like always, and was almost apologetic about the whole thing.

Just like his father, he was a real gentleman. (Please read on for more on Freddy and his field ...)

In fact, he was great human being, as nice and pleasant as they come. Journalists always need to keep their boots grounded in objectivity. But let’s face it, there are a lot of meanies and bozos in the world, so you cheer for the good human beings among us, even if you have to do it quietly to maintain a veneer of objectivity.   

Later, as he tried to get his college sorted out and meshing with his soccer ambitions, Freddy worked evenings at a wine bar near my house. Same deal. Unfailingly nice. Always smiling.  Always with the “Mr. Davis.”

As we know, the smiles and the warmth don’t make us perfect creatures. Freddy had some difficulties in his life – he’s was just such a sweet and positive kid that you probably never knew it.

Freddy died on Nov. 3, 2009. Even though he never rose beyond practice player professionally, he touched a lot a lot of people around FC Dallas and in the greater soccer community. There was much sadness around the whole thing.

Thursday, thanks to the efforts of his father and some other good people in the area, a field will be dedicated in Dallas in his name, part of the Freddy Fund project. (www.FreddyFund.com). From the group's web site:

Freddy Fund is proud to announce that construction is set to begin on Federico “Freddy” Garcia Jr. Field Thursday, September 1, with a target completion date of Saturday, October 15. After more than a year of fundraising, culminating in $150,000 in donations, Freddy’s Field is set to become reality with a groundbreaking ceremony at 7 p.m. on Sept. 1. Fans and supporters are encouraged to join the celebration as Freddy Fund will provide food and beverages while previewing the one-of-a-kind soccer field in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

Freddy’s Field Groundbreaking Ceremony

When: Thursday, September 1, 2011

Time: 7 p.m. CST

Where: Maple Lawn Elementary School, 3120 Inwood Road Dallas, TX 75235

This is a great project, befitting of a great kid. Soccer fields are precious. I wish there were more just like this one. I’ve mentioned before on this blog that in another life, I want to come back as an entrepreneur who goes around the country converting all those unused tennis courts and other unused athletic spaces in urban areas into small soccer fields, which would absolutely be put to use.

Well, here’s one such place. It’s the legacy of a good person who loved soccer. And the legacy of a kid who came from a great soccer family, one that taught a lot of lessons along the way about the game to countless people – and about all the ways there is to love the game.

I’ll be at the dedication tonight. If you’re nearby, come out. And have a good thought about a good project and a really great person.

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