It may have been a small ceremony as Aaron Gracia and his Brownsville Porter coaches celebrated a big milestone, but the love and support shown to the former Cowboys baseball player was significant.
Gracia signed to play for Huston-Tillotson University on Thursday at the high school, taking the first step toward his lifelong dream of a lengthy baseball career. He’ll be competing in the Red River Athletic Conference in the NAIA under Rams coach Mike Hearn.
“It’s an opportunity that not many people get, and I thank God for having this opportunity,” Gracia said in Spanish. “The college level is very intense, but I’m going to do everything I can because everybody tells me I have a lot of talent and I’m not going to waste the opportunity.”
A common praise Gracia received from the coaches at the ceremony was about how he matured from his freshman year to his senior year. Gracia earned the starting shortstop job as a freshman, but Porter coach Oscar Cortez said he ended up getting cut with four games left in the season.
Gracia rejoined the team the following year and became a solid player at short and on the mound for the Cowboys. He earned an all-District 32-5A second-team selection at shortstop as a junior and was a leader for the team as it opened the 2020 season strong with an 8-4-2 record and a second-place finish at the Port Isabel/Los Fresnos tournament.
Cortez is happy Gracia is getting the chance to continue his career. Considering his struggles and growth as a player and person, the skipper believes Gracia truly deserves the opportunity and will continue to develop on and off the field at the next level.
“I know his family’s not here, and it’s been a struggle in his four years not having his parents in the stands coming and seeing him perform the way he did,” Cortez said. “He struggled the first couple of years with us, he had his own mentality and behavior and was a different kind of kid. But he adapted to our philosophy of coaching. The ability he has to play baseball, I think he can play Division I anywhere. If somebody deserves that shot to play college ball, it’s him.”
Although it was disappointing to have his senior season cut short, Gracia didn’t let that deter him from pursuing his ultimate goal. He continued playing baseball in Mexico and touched base with Cortez almost daily to update him on his success. Cortez said Gracia went 3-0 on the mound and hit three home runs as he kept tuning his skills.
“God does everything for a reason,” Gracia said in Spanish about the season being canceled. “Now I believe I have to work doubly hard to achieve my objectives and my goals. My goal has always been to become a MLB baseball player and that’s what I’m trying to do, and God willing it will happen.”
Cortez believes Garcia has “great potential” and will find success in Austin. He said Gracia has quick hands that are beneficial on defense and when he’s in the batter’s box. Cortez credited Porter assistant coaches Gilberto Gonzalez and Julian Moya for helping Gracia’s development.
“I know he’s going to be OK in his college career. His hands are great,” Cortez said. “Coach Gonzalez, our infield coach, taught him certain things that he can do better in college. Hitting-wise, he got a lot better from freshman year to now. And pitching-wise with Coach Moya, he went from throwing 79 to throwing 88 his senior year, so he showed great improvement.”
Gracia thanked the Porter baseball staff and his family for helping him achieve this milestone. His coaches all expressed how proud they are of him and vowed to continue supporting him as he continues his career with the Rams, and Gracia is happy to have them in his corner.
“The truth is, when I was little I didn’t really want to play baseball, and my mom always told me, ‘Play, play.’ More than anyone, she supported me in the most difficult times,” Gracia said. “That’s not to take anything away from my coaches. My coaches are great, and they taught me a lot of things about the game and outside the game about how to be a good person, and I appreciate them very much.”