Garrett Cooper’s big league career hasn’t come easy. On Tuesday at Dodger Stadium, playing in his first All-Star Game, however, it did have a full-circle feeling.
Cooper, the Miami Marlins first baseman, grew up in Rancho Palos Verdes, the youngest of seven siblings.
His dad, Robert, said the first time he picked up a bat and a ball, he was 3.
Robert, and Cooper’s mom, Gail, signed him up for just about every sport available growing up — basketball, soccer, even tennis and golf. Of course, that also included baseball.
“Garrett was born, in my view, gifted,” Robert said. “I mean, he was almost 10 pounds when he was born. And he was just always kind of bigger than a lot of the kids, so when he would compete, he was kinda like, he had more body size and it gave him an advantage.”
He played in the Silver Spur Little League at Ernie Howlett Park in Rolling Hills Estates about four miles from their home. Gail, at one point, coached one of his teams.
The 6-foot-5, 235-pound Cooper was serious about baseball, commuting to Loyola High near downtown L.A. and opting to leave Southern California for the SEC and attend Auburn.
Cooper’s parents said he’s always had a strong work ethic and always been disciplined. Despite those qualities, both Garrett and his parents said they couldn’t have predicted just how far his career would go.
“When you look at the reality… it’s just not likely,” Robert said of the small number of players that reach the major leagues. “I never had this idea that he was going to make it and become a professional baseball player. I knew he had the desire.”
Added Cooper, 31, of now being an All-Star: “To be in this situation is something one can only dream about.”
Cooper was a sixth-round draft pick in 2013 by the Milwaukee Brewers. After advancing to triple-A, he was traded to the New York Yankees on July 13, 2017, for reliever Tyler Webb.
Cooper made his big league debut a day later, and on July 16 he got his first major league hit, a double off David Price, who at the time was with the Boston Red Sox.
That offseason he was traded to the Marlins and became their regular first baseman in 2019, hitting .281 with 15 home runs.
Since getting drafted, he’s dealt with a number of season-interrupting injuries, including needing Tommy John surgery last year. Yet he’s been remarkably consistent when healthy, batting between .281 and .284 each of the last four years.
This season Cooper is batting .283 with seven homers and 40 runs batted in, good enough for him to become an All-Star and live out one of his childhood dreams
“I think everyone’s baseball journey is different,” Cooper said. “Just to get here, just to get selected, it’s just a testament of perseverance.”
That perseverance was instilled by his dad, who he said still reminds him to “try to be as even-keeled as possible through the ups and downs.”
Cooper’s parents attend as many games as they can. Whenever he plays near L.A., they drive to see him. Of course they — as well as the rest of his family and friends — were excited to see him play at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday.
Cooper replaced Albert Pujols in the sixth inning, and although he struck out in both of his at-bats, he was thrilled to be an All-Star.
“Kid from Palos Verdes, to play in your first one here in L.A. and Dodger Stadium and have all your buddies from childhood and high school and college,” Cooper said, “To be in this situation to experience something like this with my family here… this takes the cake for my career up to this point right now.”