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War Dog Warrior

21 Feb 2014 | Lance Cpl. Casey Scarpulla

Ever since he was a kid, Cpl. Nathaniel Marcelino Garza, a postal clerk aboard Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., had a passion for sports. He grew up like many other all-American athletes, playing baseball, football, and basketball throughout his childhood; but baseball was always a little closer to his heart than the others.

“I played sports in school, kindergarten through high school,” said Garza. “I played tee-ball out in town all the way up to competitive baseball…and even played on a travel team.”

Garza, a native of Sultana, Calif., spent years watching his dad play softball and, when he was 14, he started playing with his father on the team.

“I played [sports] in high school then stopped for a little bit once I graduated,” said Garza. “I didn’t play again until I joined the Marine Corps.”

 Following his graduation from high school, Garza left for Marine Corps boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.

“I made that decision on my own...I just always knew that I wanted to be different. Everyone said boot camp was impossible and said I couldn’t do it,” said Garza. “I like to be challenged, I’ll try anything. If I fail at it, I fail at it, but at least I know I tried.”

Upon graduating boot camp, Marine Combat Training and schooling as a postal clerk, Garza received orders to Okinawa, Japan. During the two years he was in Japan, Garza found the opportunity to play softball again.

That passion for athletics stayed with him when he transferred to MCAS Yuma in 2011, and he eagerly joined one of intramural teams on station. Not surprisingly, he was soon invited to play on the base team.

“Once I got started with the base team, the competitiveness was way different. You have to compete to play on the field, it’s not intramurals anymore where you just go out and play wherever you want,” said Garza. “You have to tell them where you want to play and then you have to earn that spot.”

Since joining the base team Garza has traveled to places like San Diego, Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz., for tournaments. While on the team, they played in a state tournament; taking second in the state of Arizona and 13th overall in the national tournament.

Garza, always seeking to improve his skills, watches the other players and learns from them.

“I teach myself by watching other players. I don’t want to be the best player on the worst team, I want to be the worst player on the best team so I can sit there and learn,” said Garza.

In early 2012 the team stopped playing; there was no base team for a while. Then, later that year, Garza felt there was too much talent on this base to not have a team. He set out and contacted a few people to get a team started again. With the support of fellow Marines, Staff Sgt. Israel Stone, the training chief for Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron, and Staff Sgt. James Timmons, the operations chief for Marine Attack Squadron 211, he held softball tryouts for MCAS Yuma. Once again, there was a base team, with Garza as the coach and a new team name: the MCAS Yuma War Dogs. The team includes all ranks from junior enlisted, to senior enlisted and officers.

“Being the coach and lower ranking than the players, I don’t see it as having power over them. They’re already talented players, so I’m just helping them to keep their skills where they’re at. If I can help them get better at anything, I do what I can,” said Garza. “They understand that work is one thing and, when we’re on the field, that’s another thing. Once the tournament is over and everyone goes back to work, it’s professional.”

Garza explained that he does not consider himself a first-rate softball player; however now that he is surrounded with such a talented team, he expects to become an even better athlete.

On a daily basis Garza constantly tries to better himself as a Marine, a leader and a softball player. In about a year Garza will be done with his second enlistment but plans to do 20 years before retiring.

“I have no regrets. I am happy with the way that everything has turned out. If I wouldn’t have joined the Marine Corps, I probably would have never met my wife. Now, I have a son and a daughter,” said Garza.

Garza is an exemplary Marine who portrays ambition, passion and initiative. All these characteristics are what make him who he is today as a coach, leader, father and husband.

Garza’s drive has not gone unnoticed, last year in August, he was recommended for the All-Marines softball team but did not get the opportunity to try out due to the regional tournament being cancelled.  Normally, a regional tournament is held for every base and installation on the west coast for players to try out for the All-Marine Team.

“My family, they’re all proud of me because I could have been out there back home working at McDonalds or hanging out in the streets doing the bad stuff,” said Garza. “Instead, I decided to pursue a career. If I’ve made it this far it’s already an accomplishment for me.”

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