June 6, 2007

2-3 COUNT WITH NOBODY ON:

Viva El Guapo: Garces still fan favorite as he tries to return to majors (Joe Lemire, June 5, 2007, Sports Illustrated)

Sweet Caroline is belted in the middle of the eighth inning as New England's favorite rotund reliever warms in the bullpen. Geographically, Rich Garces is only 45 miles away from Fenway Park, but on this night, as he stretches down the right-field foul line of Holman Stadium, it's apparent that he's also five years removed from his unique stardom with the Red Sox.

The adoring crowds at Fenway used to exalt El Guapo, as Garces is affectionately known, with standing ovations any time he entered a game. His gregarious disposition, expansive waist line and quixotic nickname made him a cult hero; his fleeting brilliance as a setup man made him a Boston icon.

Attempting a comeback to professional baseball this spring with the independent league Nashua Pride, Garces is still an attraction, as evidenced by the Hispanic/Latino Night and poster giveaway held in his honor last week and the forthcoming El Guapo Bobble Belly doll promotion scheduled for July 26. He hasn't thrown a big-league pitch since 2002, but Sox fans still instantly recognize him.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 6, 2007 9:50 AM
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