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Local coach returns from health issues, leads Wesley Chapel to first-ever district championship

Nelson Garcia left coaching in 2019 to focus on his health. He returned in 2021 and, alongside his wife, has led Wesley Chapel to its first district championship.

WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. — When the Sunlake Seahawks lost to Fort Myers in the 2019 region finals, Nelson Garcia thought it was his last game as a head softball coach. After eight seasons, he resigned from his position in October 2019. What happened next kept him out of coaching for the foreseeable future. 

"I was on a bike ride and I started getting chest pains. When I'd step, it would kind of go away...after going to the cardiologist and getting checked out, he said 'you've got 90% blockage [in the heart] and you need to get some surgery done,'" Garcia said. 

Following surgery, Garcia focused on his health with the help of his wife, Denise. 

"I had to watch what he ate to bring everything down and help him," Denise said. 

With healthy eating habits and consistent exercise, Nelson lost approximately 30 pounds. Meanwhile, he felt an itch to coach again. After nearly two years, the itch never subsided. Nelson decided to scratch and became Wesley Chapel's head softball coach last summer. 

Denise became his assistant coach. 

"I'm here just to help him out, just be his backup. I trust what he does," she said. 

With the Garcias at the helm, Wesley Chapel is on a postseason run to remember. On May 5, the Wildcats won their first-ever district championship. On Wednesday, they advanced to the regional semi-final with a victory against Hardee. 

"These girls, if you take them for granted, you better hold on. They can hit the ball. They can make the plays and everything really works well," Nelson said. 

Wesley Chapel will play Lake Wales on May 17 in the regional semi-final.