For Garrett, long journey to D.C. was worth it

Reed Garrett got the call around midnight on Tuesday, having only just arrived in Scranton, Pa., with his Triple-A Rochester teammates a few hours earlier. The Nationals were calling him and fellow reliever Francisco Perez up, and because there weren’t any good flight options, his best bet was to rent a car and make the four-hour drive to Washington.

So it was that Garrett found himself behind the wheel, with Perez riding shotgun, on the road to D.C., then eventually into Tuesday night’s game against the Braves. It may have sounded like a stressful trip to some, but for the 29-year-old right-hander, it sure beat the travels he endured the last two seasons.

“Reflecting on it, it’s been a wild journey,” he said. “But it’s all been worth it.”

The journey began in Henrico, Va., where Garrett was born. It included life growing up in the Richmond area rooting for the Braves, though he believes the first major league game he ever attended was at RFK Stadium to see the Nationals.

A 16th round pick of the Rangers in 2014 out of Virginia Military Institute, Garrett would be selected by the Tigers in the 2019 Rule 5 draft and make his major league debut that season, only to be sent back to Texas after 13 disappointing appearances.

Released by the Rangers in January 2020, Garrett decided his best option was to pitch in Japan. He headed across the Pacific that spring, only three days after his wife gave birth to the couple’s first child, then wound up spending the entire season alone abroad after the pandemic shut the whole world down.

When Garrett was able to come home at season’s end, he finally got a chance to spend time with his now older son.

“I saw my son for like the first three days of his life, and then didn’t see him until he was 9 months old,” the pitcher said. “Spent the offseason with him. And then went back (to Japan) last year expecting it to be different, and it wasn’t.”

Sure enough, as the pandemic continued to disrupt daily life, Garrett was left on his own for a second season in Japan. He got one opportunity to come home on an extended break, “and my wife happened to get pregnant during that trip, too. So we had a newborn for the start of the season this year.”

So imagine Garrett’s excitement to be offered a contract with the Nationals heading into this season. He could finally be with his growing family, including 2-year-old Beau and 3-month-old daughter Lucy. And after impressing at Triple-A for two months, he got the call to come to D.C., where his family was able to meet him and see him pitch Tuesday night.

Why put himself and his family through all that?

“It’s definitely a tough decision (to play abroad), because this is the pinnacle of the sport,” he said. “This is where you want to be. Japan has really good baseball, and this was an opportunity for myself to prove myself a little bit more and take a little financial stress off, make a little bit of money. It made things easier if I was to play in the minor leagues again.”

Now, Garrett hopes to spend some quality time in the major leagues. He tossed two scoreless innings during Tuesday’s loss, with a fastball that reached 98 mph, so more opportunities should be forthcoming.

“I’m glad I’m here,” he said. "It was difficult. It’s hard to be that far away for that long. But in the end, it’s part of the plan and it’s worth it.”

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