STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — When Ryan Garko played at Stanford, he hung on every word Barry Bonds offered about hitting as the eventual home run king trained and took his swings on campus alongside the college kids and a few other pros.
Now it is Garko sharing some of those very tips, and also his own, with the Cardinal players. The former major leaguer is back at his alma mater as a first-year assistant under longtime Stanford baseball coach Mark Marquess.
Garko hopes to stick around for the long haul.
"I do offer a pretty unique perspective for our current players," he said. "I just spent 10 years with the best people in the world, coaches, players, front-office personnel. While I was playing, I envisioned I would stay in the game."
There are some big differences these days. He has daily equipment duties, such as preparing the field at Sunken Diamond and pulling out protective screens and other gear well before any players have made their way outside to practice.
He's loving every minute of it.
For years, Garko would call Marquess and former associate coach Dean Stotz inquiring about a future position. Last year, Stotz decided to retire after 37 years and made one of his first calls to Garko.
He and his wife, Christie, didn't need much convincing to make the move. They have a 1 1/2-year-old daughter, Olivia, and a baby boy on the way.
"I always kept in touch and asked them about it and they'd kind of laugh," Garko recalled. "It was just one of those things it was a perfect time for our family, Coach Stotz was ready and there's nobody I respect more or want to work for more than Coach Marquess. To be back at Stanford at this point in our lives when we're starting a new chapter, we're so thankful, so humbled."
Garko fondly remembers observing Bonds, and hopes he can have a similar impact on the young men playing for him now. Marquess had coached Bonds on the U.S. baseball team.
"Thinking about this is incredible. We'd be practicing, running in the mornings and it would be Terrell Owens, Eddie George and Barry Bonds up on the turf field working out, doing ladder drills, and sometimes Gary Sheffield," Garko said. "They'd hit in the cages and we'd watch it, this is when (Bonds) was hitting 70. He'd talk about his top hand, the stuff he talked about was so simple but it had such big impact. I took it with me the whole rest of my career."