When it comes to youth softball in Arkansas, few match the potential and versatility of Farmington native Ava “Tootie” Garcia. From state championships to national championships and everything in between, when the nine-year-old athlete steps on the field, everything she touches turns to gold.
"Tootie loves softball more than anything," said coach and uncle Joel Garcia. "She started playing when she was five years old and she loves the challenge that it brings. She's a natural athlete and a smart kid, so those two go together really well."
Despite her young career, Tootie has grown quite the impressive resume on the diamond for multiple teams--the Wicked Stix 09 (Fayetteville, Arkansas), the Frost Falcons 09 (Chatanooga, Tennessee) and the Alabama Bulls 09 (Madison, Alabama).
"On her 6U team, Tootie and her team were Arkansas state champions," Garcia said. "That was just the beginning of her success. Last fall, Tootie was invited to join the Alabama Bulls for the USSSA Fall World Series. She led off for them and they won it all. With the Frost Falcons, she won the 8U Best of the Best this year and this summer, she'll play in the USSSA World Series with the Frost Falcons in Fort Walton Beach, Florida and again with the Wicked Stix in Gulf Shores, Alabama."
On the diamond, the versatile switch-hitter contributes at almost every position and was recently selected as both a 2018 USSSA Arkansas All-State honoree and a 2018 USSSA 9U All-American shortstop and outfielder.
"Every day, Tootie works to become a better leader for her teams," Garcia said. "Her natural gift is her team's recipe for success. When the other girls try to outdo her at practice, it makes the team stronger. She's looked up to by her teammates and sets a great example for them."
One of Garcia's most impressive strengths on the diamond is her unrivaled speed. The athlete recently captured the 8U Fastest Around the Bases award at Bows 2 Bats in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
"At this age, to have a girl with the speed she has and the mentality to stretch singles into doubles is crazy," Garcia said. "Combined with her power, she can hit a ball to the fence and make it all the way around in 13.6 seconds. Not many girls can compete with that."
This fall, Tootie will represent the Midwest region at the All-American Games in Viera, Florida.
"She was screaming in the car as soon as we told her," Garcia said. "She was beyond ecstatic. When she learned that she was a direct select (one of two players to receive an automatic berth to the team) to the Midwest region, it showed her that all her hard work--the little things, like staying late to get a few more ground balls in the heat--really does pay off."
Fueled by a strong family backing, Tootie juggles academics and athletics with ease.
"Tootie has a great family support system," Garcia said. "We all travel together wherever she goes. If her mom has to work late, one of us will step up to pick her up from school and take her to practice. Her teammates are also her friends, so even though we travel so much, she doesn't miss out on any time with friends. She's a good kid with a great support system and she works hard in the classroom and on the field."
As her accomplishments continue to roll in, Tootie is far from satisfied. Each achievement brings the athlete one step closer to achieving her dream goal.
"Tootie's long term goal has always been to play for the Arkansas Razorbacks," Garcia said. "Because we live so close to Bogle Park in Fayetteville, we're always watching the team play regularly and interacting with the players and coaches. She always tells me that she is going to be there with them one day. To see a kid set a goal like that and work every day to get there is amazing."
You can follow Ava "Tootie" Garcia's journey online at www.instagram.com/TootieG7.
Future Stars of Tomorrow is a monthly feature which recognizes young athletes across Arkansas. To nominate your Future Star of Tomorrow, contact Allen Russell at (870)243-9881 or Mark Oliver at (501)617-4106.
XZero Sports would like to thank 42 Sports for their assistance with this story. 42 Sports can be found online at www.42sports.org and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mtindian42 and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/42_Sports.