Yesterday, October 31, 2019 and as most of you know Halloween was a fun day for everyone at Husky Park. The players numbering close to 65 of them, have been working hard at conditioning and baseball skills 4 days a week with me and first year Head Coach Brian Barden. It’s a grind from August to tryouts in February and with the break in the weather and feel of Autumn in the air, we decided to give them a break from the normal3 hours of conditioning and baseball opting out for touch football. It was fun to watch them show off their athletic skills and competitiveness and by the end they were tired and ready to head home. Before leaving I happened to catch Brian in the Clubhouse talking to assistant coach Shane Mackanin and decided to get to know him better. We had met last year when Brian was an assistant and heard great things about his baseball knowledge from the other coaches but I never had the opportunity to talk in depth and boy am I glad that I did.
Brian has had an amazing journey in the sport of baseball. He grew up in San Diego where he attended St. Augustine High School and was an excellent athlete who played three sports – baseball, basketball and football. Baseball was his passion then and still is today. He was a standout shortstop in high school and was named All Conference and All City and was set to attend the University of San Diego when a new coach advised him that he wasn’t good enough to make his team. Brian decided to walk on at Oregon State University. He made it, started the year at 3rd base and in 2002 became OSU career hits leader with 207. Not too shabby for someone not good enough to play at USD.
Following his senior season at Oregon State he was drafted by our home team, the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 6th round and made his first big league appearance as a pinch hitter on April 3, 2007 against the Colorado Rockies. He was sent to the Tucson Sidewinders which was the Triple AAA affiliate for the D’backs and eventually placed on waivers near the end of the season. The St. Louis Cardinals picked Brian up where he was assigned to their AAA affiliate the Memphis Redbirds and in the last month tore up the league batting .295 with 9 home runs and 35 RBI’s. This hot streak helped him being named on the 2008 USA Olympic Baseball Team winning a bronze medal in Beijing, China!
The following year, 2009 he was on the major league opening roster for the St. Louis Cardinals where he was instrumental in getting the Redbirds off to a hot start that would set the table for a World Series Championship. In the month of April, Brian hit .385 with 3 home runs and was named National League Rookie of the Month. His hot streak cooled and Brian was sent back to Memphis and his career from that point included stops in Florida, Texas, Los Angeles and Japan.
In 2014 he decided to call it quits and pursued a career in insurance. He needed a break from baseball and took about 3 years off away from the game. Brian’s contacts from his past began to prod him to get back into baseball as a coach. He did so as a club coach for Sol Baseball and then interviewed for the Horizon job last season. The hiring committee went with Jeff Urlaub but were so impressed with Brian that they suggested that Jeff add Brian to his staff. When Jeff decided to pursue a job in professional baseball Brian again applied for the head coaching job at Horizon and was named Head Coach. A truly remarkable journey in the world of baseball! I really enjoyed hearing his story and am convinced that Horizon Baseball is in good hands under Coach Barden.
I hope you enjoyed getting to know Brian and if you get the chance to root on the Huskies this spring please do so. Have a safe and healthy weekend.