Watching from the stands as her son strikes out another major-leaguer is less nerve-wracking for Nellie Garcia than back in her Little League spectator days. That son, 6-foot-4, 210-pound Mariners prospect Taijuan Walker, 20, had just sent slugger Jesus Montero back to his dugout with a called third strike Tuesday in a minor-league intrasquad game that had a handful of big-leaguers playing. Garcia clapped from the aluminum benches alongside the minor-league field, just as she did while attending almost every game her son played from Little League through high school. "I think it's harder when they're in Little League," she said. "It gets so intense when they're that age. The players take everything so hard." Things get intense when they're all grown up, too, as both Garcia and her ballplayer son found out last summer. Walker was in a stellar first season with the Class AA Jackson Generals and about a week away from appearing in the Futures Game when his mother — who had recently moved across the country to upstate New York — was diagnosed with fast-spreading Stage 3 breast cancer. From that point, baseball took a back seat. "It was pretty bad," Garcia said. "My tumor was what they called a rapidly growing tumor, so I was on some pretty harsh chemo. I was pretty out of it." It was only eight weeks ago that Garcia completed the final round of treatment and her cancer was declared in total remission. She took a needed vacation, coming to Arizona to spend a month watching her son. And that meant Walker could finally free his mind and focus on what he does best. "Knowing she's cancer-free and healthier now, it makes everything a lot easier," Walker said. "And she's out here, so I can see how she is. It makes everything more fun, less stressful. I can go out there now and not worry. My family is home and safe."
Mariners pitcher Taijuan Walker and his mother keep game in perspective
Seattle Times | Mar 20