Special experience for Garner family

Published 11:46 am Saturday, June 22, 2019


Daily News

Craig Garner made a vow that if any of his former players ever made it to the College World Series, he’d go to Omaha.

Garner, who has been Troup High’s head baseball coach for more than 15 years, was true to his word.

Garner, along with his wife Stephanie and sons Cade, Carson and Cole, traveled to Omaha to watch the College World Series, which featured two teams with players from Troup High.

Ryan Bliss is a freshman shortstop for Auburn, and Jonathan Foster is a senior catcher for Florida State.

The Garners were able to watch four games at the College World Series, including two involving Florida State and Auburn.

While Florida State beat Arkansas 1-0, Auburn lost a 5-4 heart-breaker to Mississippi State.

It was a quick trip for the family who nearly spent as much time traveling as they did in Omaha, but Garner felt it was well-worth the effort.

Asked if the experience was everything he hoped it would be, Garner said “it was better.”

“Everybody I talked to so far, that’s what I keep telling them,” Garner added. “It’s definitely something to put on the bucket list for any kind of a baseball fan.”

The Garners loaded up the family vehicle at about 8 a.m. on Friday morning, and they arrived in Omaha about 19 hours later in the week hours of Saturday morning.

After getting a few hours of sleep they headed to TD Ameritrade Park for the opening games of the World Series.

They watched two games on Saturday, and two more games on Sunday.

“We were up at 9 or so the next morning, and we ate breakfast and went on to the game and watched Texas Tech and Michigan play,” Garner said. “We watched every team play,” Garner said. “We watched four games. We saw four good games.”

Garner was able to briefly see Bliss following Auburn’s tough loss on Sunday, and he and his family had dinner with Foster after Saturday’s game.

While Garner has no doubt he would have enjoyed the experience regardless, he said “it helps to have personal connections.”

“What makes it even more special is the fact that Jonathan and Ryan both are just extraordinary young men, aside from the game of baseball,” Garner said. “They could have never played the game of baseball, and I’d still feel the same way about them.”

Foster and Bliss were both four-year starters for Troup before beginning their respectively college journeys.

Foster played at Auburn his freshman season before transferring to Chattahoochee Valley Community College.

Foster spent the past two seasons at Florida State, and he was a part-time player both years.

Bliss enjoyed a phenomenal freshman season at Auburn, and he was one of the team’s best players.

Beyond Foster and Bliss, Garner was familiar with a handful of other players with Georgia ties.

“Every team out there it seemed like had a Georgia kid on there that we either knew, or had played against, or I knew their coach,” Garner said.

That included Kumar Rocker, Vanderbilt’s outstanding pitcher.

“I scouted him three years ago when he was a sophomore (at North Oconee), because we were possibly going to play them,” Garner said. “So it’s things like that.”

The Garners weren’t the only Troup County folks in Omaha.

Cooper Doughman, who graduated from Troup in May and was a three-year starter at catcher, attended the College World Series with his mother Kelly.

Garner was impressed with everything about the World Series experience, including the way the community embraces the event and treated out-of-towners.

“The city of Omaha, they live for this,” Garner said. “Everybody out there in Omaha is as nice as they can be. So it’s really important to them, to show good hospitality, and for it to be a good experience for all the visitors.”