Baylor Freshman Receives Honor For Lifting Young Girl’s Spirits

November 28, 2017

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WACO, Texas (Nov. 28, 2017) — San Antonio freshman Matthew Garcia was honored at the 2017 Musial Awards for turning a heartbreaking experience into a heartwarming gesture that gained massive attention.

After receiving the disappointing report that he did not qualify for the state cross-country meet last year, Garcia went to his younger brother's football game to give his mother the news. As he sat in the stands with his mother during halftime, the cheerleaders did a special performance with their parents. Fathers hoisted their daughters onto their shoulders for the routine, and Garcia's mother called his attention to a cheerleader who stood out from the rest because she was alone.

Addie Rodriguez, 9, cheered by herself because her father, a senior airman and Medevac tech in the Air Force, was away on a training mission. When Rodriguez covered her face and burst into tears, Garcia left his seat, jumped two fences, ran to her and asked if she would mind if he hoisted her onto his shoulders like the other cheerleaders' dads. Rodriguez accepted, and the crowd cheered with excitement as she finished the cheer on his shoulders. Garcia said he was instinctively drawn to do the cheer with Rodriguez because he empathized with her pain.

"I think that struck a chord with me because my parents are divorced," Garcia said. "So I kind of knew what it was like to only have one parent at a sporting event. I could kind of relate to her, and I think that's why it was almost instinct."

On the day that Addie's father returned from his deployment last year, he brought lunch to Garcia's high school so he could meet the young man who was so kind to his daughter while he was away. Garcia said Rodriguez expressed his gratitude to him for being a part of something he wished he could have attended.

"He's the kind of guy where I feel like if I was opposite in the situation, he would have done the same thing," Garcia said.

Although this gesture was a small act of random kindness to Garcia, it received coverage on local TV, USA TODAY, ABC News and recently, the Musial Awards. The Musial Awards recognize the year's greatest moments of sportsmanship in North America and honor legendary sports figures who personify sportsmanlike virtues. Last weekend, Garcia and his family traveled to St. Louis, Missouri, for the award show where he had the opportunity to meet many people who are involved on the sports commission. Garcia said he was overwhelmed by the massive amount of honor he was receiving for what he thought was such a small act.

"People were applauding when I got the award, and I remember looking out thinking, 'Wow, I don't deserve this,'" Garcia said. "I'm happy that people are recognizing what happened. I think it makes an impact on people but I still don't think much of it."

The trip to St. Louis also served as a bonding experience for Garcia and Rodriguez's father. After conversing and spending time together during the trip, the two have become close and Garcia said he looks up to Rodriguez. Garcia still keeps in touch with the family as he continues his journey at Baylor.

Now that the award show and media coverage have passed, Garcia said that his acts of selflessness will not stop here. This experience has inspired him to continue to take more notice of his actions and the way they affect people.

"After I've seen the impact that something that little causes, you never know what could happen," Garcia said. "A small gesture can make somebody's day, and that means a lot to me."

by Joy Moton , student newswriter, (254) 710-6805


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.