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Garcia Not Giving Up Fight to Keep Job

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CLEVELAND (AP) -- Richie Garcia will be in Tiger Stadium on Sept.
2, working behind the plate or at one of the bases, just like he
has every baseball season since 1975.

And he promises the game between the Texas Rangers and Detroit
Tigers won't be his last.

"I'm not quitting. We're not quitting," said Garcia, one of 22
umpires whose resignations were accepted by baseball. "I've got in
my mind that I'm going to be working Sept. 3, and if not Sept. 3,
then some other time."

Fearful baseball would lock them out after their labor contract
expires Dec. 31, umpires announced last month that they would quit
en masse to try to force an early start to negotiations.

But the strategy backfired when their union split and 27 of the
68 umpires either refused to resign or withdrew their resignations.
Baseball then hired 25 new umpires from the minors.

Garcia, a 57-year-old grandfather of four, is one of the game's
most-respected umpires. He's surprised that some of the umpires
being kept have less experience and lower ratings.

"They haven't even talked to me. They haven't had the decency
to contact me," he said. "I haven't had any contact with the
league office in this regard or any regard since April.

"I don't know if it's because of my stance with the union or
what. Obviously, they're not going to say. I don't know what
they're waiting for."

Garcia has earned a reputation as one of the best
balls-and-strikes umps in the league. His engaging personality has
always made him popular with players, managers and fans, some of
whom best remember him for his controversial call in the 1996 AL
playoffs. That's when young Jeffrey Maier reached over the
right-field wall in Yankee Stadium, prevented Baltimore's Tony
Tarasco from catching Derek Jeter's drive and turned it into a home
run.

After his name appeared on the list of umpires possibly on their
way out, Garcia said he has been approached by people around the
league offering kind words and advice.

"I've gotten a lot of support," he said. "One manager told me
to go on a hunger strike, that will get some attention. But this
isn't about Richie Garcia, this isn't about one umpire. Or good
ones. Or bad ones. This is about 22 umpires who were let go for no
reason.

"This situation has been a chance for me to realize there are
people who have appreciated what I've done on the field for 25
years. Obviously, the American League doesn't appreciate it. All I
heard from them was, thank you for 25 years and I hope you have a
nice retirement."

That day is still years away as far as Garcia is concerned, so
long as he gets to plead his case.

"I had a long visit with Richie before the game," Texas
manager Johnny Oates said Wednesday night. "Don't count on him
leaving just yet. This thing can get worked out where we're able to
keep the good umpires."

Garcia, vice president of the umpires' union, said he's spending
18 or 19 hours each day working to make sure he and the other 21
umpires are heard. He is in constant contact with umpires and the
union's lawyers, who are trying to convince the National Labor
Relations Board to seek an injunction to prevent the 22 from being
let go.

"We're still going to the NLRB every couple of days," Garcia
said. "We're sending more and more evidence of unfair labor law
practices. We're actually putting our faith in the legal system.
Hopefully, we can get something negotiated before Sept. 2."

The last month's upheaval has strained relationships among some
of the umpires, Garcia said. Friendships have been broken and those
umpires who crawled back to baseball won't be forgotten -- on his
crew, Mike Reilly broke with the union leadership and Laz Diaz and
Brian O'Nora agreed to become permanent replacements.

Garcia also blames baseball and the league offices for not
creating a dialogue.

"There's a lot of animosity," he said. "We feel that they
contributed to the firing of the 22 guys. We've got a lot of young
umpires involved in this with young families that are possibly
going to lose their jobs. That's why I'll go down to the last day
fighting for these young guys like I always have.

"It's inhumane what they did. There's no reason in the world
that they had to release everybody on that certain date. They had
more than enough time to send us a letter or contact each guy
individually."

Garcia is holding out hope that a solution can be found before
Sept. 2. He has plenty of ideas on how to fix things, Garcia just
wishes management would listen.

And he's hoping the umpires who broke with the union will
explain why.

"We need those umpires to come forward and tell the truth," he
said. "That's all we're asking. Just asking for people to tell the
truth. That's what our job is based on, telling the truth."

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