Granted, he was just 4 years old at the time, and he was a most-reluctant T-ball player.
"'I don't want to be here'," said Garcia's father, Edgar, quoting his son from 17 years ago. "But I put the ball on the tee for him, and he smacked it to left field.
"When he got to first base, I asked him if he wanted to go home, and he said, 'No, daddy, I want to stay here.'"
Unfortunately for Bruins opponents, Garcia stuck to baseball from that point forward, arriving on UCLA's campus in the fall of 2016 as an infielder/pitcher. Right away, Bruins coach John Savage decided that Garcia's best position was pitcher.
After a freshman season in the bullpen, Garcia became a starter in 2018, going 8-1, 2.23.
This year, he has been even more dominant: 8-0 with a 1.30 ERA in 12 appearances, including 10 starts.
In 69 innings, Garcia has allowed just 38 hits (.161 batting average), including seven doubles and four homers, and 21 walks.
He is a Golden Spikes semifinalist who ranks third in the nation in ERA and first among Power Five conferences.
"I'm not saying he's in the Trevor Bauer/Gerrit Cole class," Savage said of two former UCLA first-round pitchers now in the majors. "But he's in that company."
Garcia's parents, Edgar and Liz, have known each other since elementary school, and they were baseball teammates in middle school.
Liz made her high school baseball freshman team - against boys - but opted to play varsity softball instead.
Edgar and Liz became high school sweethearts, and he had a scholarship offer to play baseball as a catcher for Cal State Northridge. But Liz, who was in college at the time, became pregnant with Ryan just before Edgar graduated high school.
That was the end of Edgar's baseball career. He went to work to support his growing family, and he and Liz married one year after Ryan was born. Edgar and Liz have another child, Dylan, 12, who is also an aspiring baseball player.
Meanwhile, Ryan, who is California-born but has Mexican heritage on his father's side, didn't really get serious about pitching until he got to UCLA.
Bruins catcher Will McInerny, a fellow junior, remembers the first time he caught Garcia in the fall of 2016.
"He has such an easy delivery, it doesn't feel like you're catching someone throwing in the 90s," McInerny said. "It feels like you're just playing catch with another position player."
The fact that Garcia played shortstop and third base in high school helps him on the mound.
"He's like a fifth infielder," McInerny said. "He's a really good athlete. And with his history as a hitter, he trusts his pitches. He knows how hard it is to hit."
Garcia started this season on the sidelines with an injury to his right forearm. He made his season debut on March 9 as a middle reliever, pitching one scoreless inning against Oklahoma State.
On March 24, he made his first weekend start of the year, on a Sunday, and he allowed just one hit and one walk in 7 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out eight Arizona hitters.
His biggest breakthrough came on April 26, his first Friday start as a member of the Bruins.
In that win over Utah, he became the first Bruins pitcher to throw a complete game since 2017 and the first since Bauer in 2011 to get 14 strikeouts. He threw a two-hitter, requiring just 106 pitches and allowing three baserunners, including one walk.
No Utah hitter got past first base.
"That game felt great," said Garcia, who is much more shy and silent than bold and brash. "I try to pitch every game like I'm the Friday starter. But, on Fridays, it is an important task to set the tone for the weekend."
Garcia has done that for the Bruins, who are 45-8 - including 18-4 away from home - and have won eight straight games.
No team has beaten UCLA more than once this season, and the Bruins have not lost consecutive games since March 8.
Garcia said he gets far more nervous during media interviews than he does when he's staring at a batter from a distance of 60 feet, six inches.
But even though he doesn't wear his emotions on his Bruins jersey, he didn't get this far without being competitive. An example of that comes out when asked about his size - he is a 6-foot, 185-pounder, which is smaller than most top prospects at his position.
"It adds fuel to my fire," Garcia said when asked about his doubters.
Garcia gets batters out by having a superior mix of four pitches: a four-seam fastball that ranges between 89-94 mph; an 81-84 slider with sharp, late tilt; a mid-80s changeup and a 73-75 curve.
"All four of Ryan's pitches are beneficial to each other," McInerny said. "His arm speed and spin rate add zippiness to his fastball. As a hitter, you think you are on time … but you're late.
"Batters leave the box confused as to why they are not hitting him. Guys start the game against him in a groove, and, by the end, they're in a slump."
After not getting drafted out of high school, Garcia is projected to go in the top four rounds next month. In fact, a selection in the top two rounds would not be a surprise, given his success this season.
Savage, who led UCLA to its only College World Series title in 2013 and may have the horses to do it again this year, said he is not surprised at how Garcia has developed.
"I thought he could be special," Savage said. "I knew it would take time - and it has. He was a high school shortstop with a terrific arm. We had him at our camp, and he had a clean delivery. The way the ball came out of his hand, it wasn't hard to see he could be a legit pitcher in our program.
"We dug into him and invested into him, and he has become our No. 1 guy. … His (forearm) injury has been a blessing in disguise because he has just 69 innings - he's fresh and pitching at the highest level of his career."
Garcia's career record at UCLA is 18-1. In two years as a starter, he is 14-1, 1.58 with 145 strikeouts in 125 2/3 innings.
In addition, he pitched in Cape Cod for the first time last summer, and he was an all-star for the league champs, going 2-0, 1.28 with 33 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings.
He also finished the summer with a streak of 25 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run.
"Statistically, Ryan is lights out," McInerny said. "But he hasn't been pitching that long. He still hasn't hit his ceiling, and that's what's most exciting."
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