Texas' head coach Augie Garrido watches as his team competes against UT Pan American during a NCAA college baseball game at Disch-Falk Field Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015. (Stephen Spillman for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Baseball

Augie Garrido: “No choice” but to miss Saturday’s game for immigrant award

Garrido says honor is "for all those people I don't know"

Posted May 4th, 2016

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Story highlights
  • Augie Garrido is one of 91 immigrants or children of immigrants who will receive an Ellis Island Medal of Honor on Saturday.
  • Past recipients of the award include six U.S. presidents, Rosa Parks, Muhammad Ali, Frank Sinatra and Hillary Clinton
  • Pitching coach Skip Johnson will take over for Garrido in Saturday's Big 12 game at West Virginia. Garrido will return for Sunday's finale.

Stressing that his immense pride in his heritage is leaving him no other choice, Texas baseball coach Augie Garrido will take a day off work this weekend to receive an award for influential immigrants or their children.

After coaching Texas in Friday’s Big 12 series opener at West Virginia, Garrido will shuffle off to New York on Saturday as one of 91 recipients of the Ellis Island Medals of Honor, which he’s getting not only for the 1,971 games he’s won, but for the untold number of lives he’s touched along the way.

Pitching coach Skip Johnson will step in for Saturday’s game. Garrido will return to the Longhorns’ dugout for Sunday’s finale.

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“There’s no choice,” Garrido said Wednesday. “It goes beyond a choice. … Put yourself in my place and think about what you’re bringing to the university, the athletic department, and the immigrants with similar backgrounds who haven’t been recognized, but might be as a result of this.”

Garrido, whose father emigrated from Spain, said he has received permission from UT officials to miss Saturday’s game for the event. Among those being honored are Padma Lakshmi, the producer of Top Chef; Mike Utley, a former NFL offensive lineman who during a 1991 game with the Detroit Lions was paralyzed from the waist down; Alice Torre, the wife of former baseball manager Joe Torre; and Carl Peterson, the former general manager of the Kansas City Chiefs. Past recipients include Hillary Clinton, Frank Sinatra, Rosa Parks, Muhammad Ali and six U.S. presidents.

Garrido got emotional on Wednesday speaking to reporters about his family, and specifically his mother, a Texan whom Garrido said learned to read through the daily newspaper that was glued to the ceiling of the family’s home for shelter from outside elements.

“It’s for all those people I don’t know,” Garrido said. “If I can get it, anyone can get it. Gotta start somewhere. Somebody’s gotta do it first, and usually that person gets criticized.”

To that end, Garrido’s decision to step away from his team toward the end of a disappointing season might come across as selfish or misguided. Short of winning the Big 12 tournament, Texas (21-24) has virtually no shot of advancing to the NCAA postseason. And speculation has been swirling whether his bosses will allow Garrido to coach the final year of his contract in 2017.

Texas, with a 9-9 conference record, is in fourth place in the Big 12 standings, just ahead of West Virginia (24-19, 8-9).

A school official said Garrido committed to the event several months ago.

Garrido said he planned to address his team about his absence, but it sounds like it’ll go over just fine.

“Sometimes there’s things that are bigger than a simple game that we play here,” veteran catcher Tres Barrera said. “At the end of the day, it’s just a baseball game. He’s done so much not only in baseball, but in many people’s lives, across the country helping people, being a mentor. The award he’s getting, he completely deserves it, and everyone in the locker room understands that he has to be there.”

Johnson, the team’s pitching coach since 2007, will pull double duty on Saturday. This isn’t a new undertaking, as he was the head coach at Navarro College and won 450 games from 1994-2006. He, along with former hitting coach Tommy Harmon, stepped in for Garrido to lead the Longhorns for the first four games of the 2009 season when Garrido was serving a four-game suspension. Johnson has held the title of associate head coach for the past four years.

“If he’s not there and he’s gonna get a prestigious award, then I’m gonna do the best I can to be a head coach,” Johnson said. “I’ve been a head coach before, and I’m the head coach of a pitching staff right now.”

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