CONYERS -- Pinpointing the best week of Nick Watson-Garcia’s life isn’t a hard thing to do.
The last week of May, 2019 featured not one, not two, but three milestones achieved in the young life of Watson-Garcia — winning a state baseball championship, being named the Class 6A Player of the Year and graduating high school.
And while it was a given that on May 24 he would walk across the stage at Heritage High School and grab his diploma before striding off, signaling the end of his four-year journey, his two achievements in the game of baseball was what put the week over the top.
On May 23, in front of friends and family, celebration on the field at State Mutual Stadium in Rome gave way to tears of joy after helping his team claim the first state championship in the 43-year history of the program.
Less than 24 hours later, while stopping by the school to handle some last-minute graduation plans, he was informed by head coach Shane Ramsey that his week was going to get a little bit better.
“I came up to the school to get one of the stoles for graduation and talked to coach Ramsey because it was the day after we won the state championship,” Watson-Garcia said. “He came up to me and gave me a big hug and was like, ‘you’re the 6A Player of the year.’”
The week, as all of them do, good or bad, ended for Watson-Garcia. Roughly two weeks of re-living the best parts of his so-called ‘best week ever,’ Watson-Garcia found himself back in the baseball locker room at Heritage for the first time since winning the state championship.
As he cleaned out his locker, a moment of reflection was needed, knowing that while he would never suit up in the red, white and blue again, he would never have another chance to clean out his locker, either.
“Coming (into the locker room) everyday and being around my friends, I’ll really miss that,” Watson-Garcia said. “Everyone on the team was really close and we just enjoyed spending time with one another. Coach Ramsey never made it too hard on us. We had fun with it. I’ll miss that.”
Two weeks prior, while celebrating with teammates moments after winning the state title, Watson-Garcia had a difficult time containing his emotions. It isn’t clear when the first tear began to swell up in his eyes, but once it did, there was no stopping them.
In the midst of the chaos on the baseball diamond, a depleted Watson-Garcia came to realize, probably quicker than others, that the journey was over.
“That’s the most I’ve ever wanted to win,” Watson-Garcia said. “All throughout the playoffs, I just wanted to win. I didn’t care how I played or how anyone else played. As long as we won, I didn’t care. After the game… I don’t know. I just kind of realized that that was the last time me and my teammates would play together. I’m happy that we won, but it was a sad moment, too.”
Winning a state championship was a dream instilled in Watson-Garcia and his fellow Heritage teammates from the moment coach Ramsey stepped on campus are accepting the position prior to his freshman year.
Failing in each of their first three tries, Watson-Garcia, even now, has a hard time realizing that they did indeed win it all.
“Everyone was working towards this since freshman year,” Watson-Garcia said. “Coach Ramsey put it in our heads that we were good enough to win a state championship. Every year we talked about winning it, but never really got close. Freshman year, we got knocked out in the first round and sophomore and junior year, we got knocked out in the second round. This year, we finally put it all together and won the thing.”
Watson-Garcia’s journey to eventually winning a state championship, earning 6A Player of the Year and signing a scholarship to continue his career at Columbus State did not come easy.
Eventually making a name for himself as a pitcher, his first season at Heritage was spent playing shortstop and hitting. Through the first handful of games, he didn’t know if things would work out at the high school level.
“The first five games that I played absolutely horrible,” Watson-Garcia said. “I couldn’t make a play at shortstop and was striking out almost every at-bat. It was the worst I’ve ever played in my life. I was so nervous. I just finally told myself that I can’t keep doing this. I told myself that I was going to go out there and play like I’ve always played.”
Having an opportunity to pitch as a sophomore and swing the bat, Watson-Garcia never looked back. By the time his senior season rolled around, Watson-Garcia was already committed to Columbus State. All that was left to do was to enjoy the season.
A slow start to the season at the plate, one that forced coach Ramsey to move him down in the order, quickly ended. By the time the Patriots’ Region 3 slate rolled around, Watson-Garcia proved to be one of the Patriots’ most consistent hitters at the plate.
His highlights include a walk-off three-run homer against Grovetown and a walk-off single against Allatoona in the state quarterfinals. On the mound, Watson-Garcia won seven games and struck out 87 batters, second only to teammate Griffin Holcombe.
Watson-Garcia chalked a lot of his success in 2019, especially at the plate, to being mentally tough and putting in the extra work.
“Chrisitan (Davis), Calabaia (Atkins), Cole (Smith) and I would sometimes come up to the field on Saturday’s, or whenever we didn’t have practice and hit by ourselves,” he said. “We worked hard. We were up here a lot. I think what helped me in those situations was the mental side. I didn’t let those moments get too big. I treated those like normal at-bats. I wasn’t trying to do too much. That got the job done.”
With Watson-Garcia set to head off to college in the next few weeks, he will leave behind one of the most successful careers in the history of the Heritage program. At Columbus State, he hopes to put together a similar career.
“I’m really excited,” Watson-Garcia said. “I report Aug. 8 and I’m excited to get started. I was originally going as a pitcher, but I think I might see if I can swing and play the field a little bit.”
And while his main focus will be on making the best of his time at Columbus State, he isn’t ready to forget about where it all started.
“Columbus is only two hours away, so I’m going to come up here and watch as many games as I can, but it’s on to a new chapter,” Watson-Garcia said.