Sweets bolster outfield and pitching staff with a duo of Yellowjackets
Walla Walla, Wash. – The Sweets added a couple of stingers to their roster by signing a pair of Montana State University Billings Yellowjackets. Jalen Garcia (OF/Junior) and Carson Woolery (RHP/Junior) have joined #SweetsCountry and will take the field at Borleske Stadium for Walla Walla this summer.
“My coach was trying to get me into different areas around the country, but then he said, ‘The Sweets are here for you, [you’ve] got a spot,’ so I said, ‘Sign me up!’” Garcia said. “I’m ready to play ball in the WCL and get going.”
“Ever since my freshman year when we went to the Sweets’ games, I was always telling my buddies that I wanted to play for this summer team eventually,” Woolery said. “It’s always been a team I wanted to play for, so I’m really excited to have the opportunity.”
Garcia is a native of Billings, Montana where he attended Billings Christian High School. Montana does not have state-wide high school baseball, so he played American Legion with the Billings Scarlets and had an outstanding career with them.
He was a three-time All-State selection and his senior year in 2015 was named Montana Baseball MVP and won the Montana state batting title. That same year, Garcia helped lead the Scarlets to a AA Montana baseball state championship and took home tournament MVP after going 13 for 22 with 11 RBIs in the team’s five games.
“I loved it; we had a great program and the coach was awesome,” Garcia said of his time with the Scarlets. “It was definitely different being the only guy from my high school [to play there]. I didn’t really know any of the guys, having not grown up or played ball with them, but it was a great experience. We were super good and winning state was awesome, too.”
Garcia spent his first year playing collegiately with Corban University and put up some excellent numbers. He started 30 games and finished the season with a .294 batting average, four doubles, a homerun and 11 RBI.
“It was definitely a learning experience,” Garcia said. “Getting to the college scene and getting comfortable was really good [for me].”
The talented outfielder then transferred to Montana State University Billings and had a terrific sophomore year with the Yellowjackets. He compiled a .327 batting average, 11 doubles, five homeruns, 38 RBI, and was tabbed second-team All-GNAC. He was recently named to the 2018 National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association preseason second-team All-West Region.
“Loved it,” Garcia said of the MSUB baseball program. “The coaches keep us working hard and run a really professional organization. They keep us on our toes, keep us on our grades, just keep us in line really well, and we’ve been having some success here.”
Garcia is now settled into playing at a four-year university but didn’t have that opportunity when he was coming out of high school. He was lightly recruited and garnered little interest from four-year programs, but not letting it discourage him, he has used it as a chip on his shoulder to continually motivate himself.
“When you’re coming out of high school, not having any D1 offers, not really having a whole lot of offers [in general] and being the Montana MVP and winning the batting title, you expect some [offers or interest],” Garcia said. “But it’s tough getting recruited out of Montana, especially when you only have Legion ball. So, it’s been a motivation for me my whole life, and I let it fuel me, but I don’t let it get to me.”
The Billings native had the chance to play in the West Coast League this past summer with the Wenatchee AppleSox, but despite putting up some solid numbers offensively, Garcia felt he could have had a stronger performance. He finished the season with a .276 batting average, 14 doubles, two homeruns, and 21 RBI.
“It was a good time, a great experience,” Garcia said of playing for the AppleSox. “I definitely wish I could’ve played a little better, which is definitely going to motivate me this year. But it’s nice to have a little experience under my belt and know what to expect, what the fields are like and the whole system.”
With the AppleSox Garcia had the chance to play at Borleske Stadium against the Sweets in the opening series of the season and was impressed with the support from the team’s fan base. He also said that Woolery has filled him in on what else he can expect to experience playing for the Sweets.
“Carson tells me about how crazy the fan base is there, how loyal they are, and how the players are like superstars around the community,” Garcia said. “When I was playing there in the outfield, it was definitely an experience opening there with so many people, it was awesome.”
A native of Caldwell, Idaho, Woolery went to Caldwell High School where he was a three-year varsity letterman in baseball. He said there were some ups and downs throughout his tenure there but that the team bonded over the adversity and that ultimately he feels the experience benefitted him in the long run.
“I feel like that really helped me grow as a player and as a leader overall because we had to take initiative at a young age because we didn’t have much handed to us throughout our high school career,” Woolery said. “So, overall it was a really good experience for me and my junior and senior years we had two really good seasons.”
Woolery played his first two college seasons for Walla Walla Community College and excelled on the mound for the Warriors. As a sophomore, he posted a 5-2 record with a 2.70 ERA over 53.1 innings. He was initially recruited as an infielder, but after a lackluster freshman season, he made the tough decision to convert to a full-time pitcher.
“Toward the end of my freshman year, my pitching coach, J.C. Biagi, pulled me aside and really sat me down and talked to me about if I wanted to come back the following year as a pitcher,” Woolery said. “He saw potential in me being on the mound, more so than being an infielder. Coming back to Walla Walla my sophomore year, I then made the choice that I wanted to do what I can to keep playing baseball, so I made the jump and became a pitcher. I tried to work really hard at it and pick Biagi’s mind because he’s a very smart man and made me the pitcher that I am today.”
The hard throwing right hander also spoke highly of Walla Walla Community College head coach Dave Meliah and the tremendous program that he runs.
“The two years I had at Walla Walla were so far the best two years of college that I’ve had,” Woolery said. “The city of Walla Walla, the school, and the baseball program were great experiences all around. It was a big family atmosphere that we had, so it was just a really great day-to-day grind.”
Woolery began to garner a lot of interest from four-year universities after his time with WWCC, but he ultimately chose to play for Montana State University Billings. He said he was drawn to the program because of head coach Aaron Sutton and his reputation for having an exceptional approach to the game.
“A big dream of mine during high school was to play for him because I heard so many great things about him,” Woolery said. “Just the way he ran programs, I was really interested in the opportunity to play under him.”
Though it’s still early on in his tenure with the Yellowjackets, Woolery said he has enjoyed his time so far in Billings and that it was a significant change of scenery but a smooth transition overall.
“It’s been really great, but it was a big change coming over,” Woolery said. “I really enjoyed eastern Washington, and I had never been to this part of Montana. But it’s a great team that I didn’t have trouble getting involved with or making friends with, so right away I felt like one of the guys.”
Having spent two years in Walla Walla, Woolery became familiar with the Sweets program and attended several games while there. He said he was extremely impressed with Borleske Stadium and the energy the fans bring, and after experiencing that, he knew it was something of which he wanted to be a part.
“It’s a great atmosphere, the fans are amazing, and it’s just really cool to see the whole town of Walla Walla come around one specific thing,” Woolery said. “Especially with a team like the Sweets that’s very family and fan oriented, it’s a really cool thing. Playing in [that environment] with the huge grandstand we have and everything, it’s going to be a really fun time.”
Sweets head coach Frank Mutz said he is excited with the prospect of adding yet another pair of talented players, this time from Montana State University Billings. He believes both players will play key roles in the Sweets’ success this season.
“Woolery has a big arm and will fit into one of the starting roles or could be a closer,” Mutz said. “With his success in the NWAC and his season at Montana State, he will add stability and experience to our staff. And I’ve been watching Garcia’s start to his 2018 season at Montana State. His numbers are unreal, and my hope is that he can put those kinds of stats up this summer in Walla Walla. I believe he should fit right into the top of our line up.”