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García was let go by 2 teams, including the Rangers, the team he’s led to the World Series

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Adolis García has gone from twice being designated for assignment to becoming a record-setting AL Championship Series MVP who is now in the World Series, all after the slugger defected from Cuba in hopes of playing in the big leagues.

“It was a long journey. It was a tough decision that I made at the time,” García said through a translator Thursday. “It’s definitely been worth it. I think if I had the opportunity to do it all over again, I definitely would, because it’s been really good.”

For both the 30-year-old García and the Texas Rangers. García has helped the Rangers reached the Fall Classic for the first time since 2011 with his big bat and passionate approach.

“He’s the best, man. He’s a great teammate,” designated hitter-catcher Mitch Garver said. “He’s overcome a lot, that’s for sure. … He’s just incredible.”

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García set a series record with 15 RBIs in the AL championship against Houston is just one short of another mark with his 20 overall in the postseason. He extended his home run streak to four games by going deep twice in Game 7 as the Rangers won at defending champion Houston and became the first player with RBIs in six straight games within a postseason series.

There was also the grand slam in the ninth inning of the must-win Game 6 after striking out the first four times that night. That followed the emotional Game 5 at home, when he hit a go-ahead homer punctuated with a bat spike in the sixth, then got plunked on the upper left arm by a 98.9 mph fastball his next at-bat. García angrily went face-to-face with catcher Martín Maldonado as benches and bullpens cleared before the Astros came back to win.

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Now he gets to play in the World Series after joining former minor league teammate Randy Arozarena as an ALCS MVP; Arozarena achieved the feat with Tampa Bay in 2020. The Rays played in that neutral-site Fall Classic following the COVID-impacted season at the same retractable-roof stadium where the Rangers will host Game 1 against Arizona on Friday night.

“He’s someone who knows me, knows my abilities, knows what I can do,” García said of Arozarena. “He just told me about the experience, the emotions, how it’s going to be out there, and that I was going to be somebody who will really enjoy it.”

Arozarena and García were together in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, but both were let go after the 2019 season, when García had two hits and seven strikeouts while getting only 17 plate appearances in his first big league action.

García had been the MVP in Cuba’s top professional league before being allowed by the Cuban government to play in Japan in 2016. But he never went home after 32 games for the Yomiuri Giants in 2016, instead moving to the Dominican Republic and signing with the Cardinals as an international free agent in 2017.

“It’s something that with my skill set throughout my journey in baseball, I could kind of understand and see that I would be able to do something like that or get to that stage,” García said of pursing the big leagues. “Once I won the MVP, after that season, that’s where I kind of knew that I had the skill to be over here and play.”

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The Rangers acquired García for cash in December 2019 after he was designated for assignment by the Cardinals and went unclaimed. He spent most of the 2020 season at the Rangers’ alternate training site, and struck out in four of his six big-league at-bats.

When Texas had to make room on its 40-man roster at the start of spring training in 2021 for journeyman right-hander Mike Foltynewicz — who went 2-12 with a 5.44 ERA that season and hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since — the Rangers designated García for assignment. While talented, he lacked consistent contact and again wasn’t claimed.

García went to spring training as a non-roster invite and hit .375 with three homers, 13 RBIs and four stolen bases in 22 games. He failed to make the Rangers’ opening day roster but was called up less than a month later, and now is a two-time All-Star with 97 homers and 299 RBIs over the past three seasons.

“I always knew what I could do in baseball. I think I always trusted my abilities and my skill set,” he said. “I always believed that the team would have trust in me if I was able to show that.”

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