May 15, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA: Detailed view of a Rawling official baseball in the dugout during the game between the Arizona Diamondbacks against the Atlanta Braves at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Life Begins at 25: The Pitching Rebirth of Jeremy Barfield

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“I was 25. In baseball, you feel 60 if you’re not in the big leagues. I didn’t want to become a Crash Davis.”

-Ron Shelton

Director of Bull Durham, and a former minor league ballplayer

Approximately one week ago the career of Jeremy Barfield was at the crossroads. The offspring of former major leaguer Jesse Barfield, was in the midst of his sixth professional season in the Oakland organization after being drafted in the 8th round of the 2008 June draft.

Sometime during this period of development, Barfield’s status as a fringe prospect had devolved to little more than organizational filler. Serving time in Double-A Midland for the third consecutive year, a sudden and unexpected power burst warranted a promotion to Triple-A in May, manifesting a beacon of hope for the native Texan.

Although Barfield’s professional advancement registered as little more than a blip on the prospect radar, there was reason to believe that perhaps he had finally begun to develop the power that his impressive physical frame suggested.

The power in question, coincided with an increased walk rate to produce a .242/.333/.515 batting line, with a .273 ISO in 114 plate appearances during his third go-around in Midland. In the eyes of the Athletics staff, the small sample size of offensive improvement granted him worthy of a call-up to Sacramento as an injury replacement on the River Cats roster.

In Sacramento, a hot start quickly dissipated into a .188/.269/.316 line and a flooded outfield quickly relegated him to a bench role. Approaching his 25th birthday, the prospect of a major league career were diminishing by the day. Logging more time as the de facto first base coach than the starting right fielder, the machinations of change were set forth based on a very special attribute…a rocket for a throwing arm.

Like his father before him, Barfield had opened eyes and secured audible gasps with awe-inspiring throws made from the furthest reaches of the outfield. Consistently leading the organization in outfield assists, he was generally regarded as having the best outfield arm in Oakland’s minor league system. With his offensive struggles creating a somewhat bleak professional future, it was announced that he would report to the Arizona Instructional League to be re-born as a pitcher.

Everyone is aware of the story of Sean Doolittle‘s meteoric rise, from injury plagued position player to top set-up man last season by now. His career upheaval was largely sparked and aided by the instruction of Athletics director of player development Keith Lieppman, and minor league pitching rehab coordinator Garvin Alston who worked diligently with Doolittle on his mechanics and development of an off-speed pitch. Together, these men will be put to work along with the Arizona staff, to try to reinvent Jeremy Barfield in a similar guise.

With a blueprint drawn up, Jeremy Barfield will step onto the mound for the first time since high school to embark on a new adventure. The road to resurrection will likely not be a smooth one, but for the time being he has a second chance of fulfilling a dream. At 25 years old, is there anything more he could ask for?

 

 

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