The Nationals will partake in their first Spring Training game tomorrow against the New York Mets. Below is the lineup:
1. Nyjer Morgan, CF
2. Ian Desmond, SS
3. Roger Bernadina, LF
4. Michael Morse, RF
5. Matt Stairs, DH
6. Wilson Ramos, C
7. Kevin Barker, 1B
8. Danny Espinosa, 2B
9. Jerry Hairston, 3B
Chad Gaudin, SP
So, who is Kevin Barker?
Barker, a native Virginian, is a 35-year-old career minor leaguer. A VPI alumni, Barker last got a taste of the majors as a Cincinnati Red in 2009 where he had 32 at bats, but before that the last time he registered at least 100 at bats in the big leagues was way back in 2000 with the Milwaukee Brewers…when he was still a 24-year-old prospect.
Despite posting strong minor league seasons in 1998 (.281/.331/507, 28 HR 110 RBI in AA-AAA) and 1999 (.278/.363/518, 23 HR, 87 RBI in AAA), he was never able to gain significant playing time in Milwaukee. It appears that the Brewers were set on playing Sweet Lou Mark Loretta at first base, and not the young power hitting left-hander.
In total, Barker has hit .264/.355/.469 with 191 home runs and 733 in 13 AAA seasons, a regular Crash Davis. He is one of those unique players who did not make it in the show not because of his ability, but because of he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and never given an opportunity.
Barker represents exactly the type of treasures that make Spring Training such an amazing place to explore. It’s a unique melting pot filled with those who rule the game of today, those who are hoping to rule the game of tomorrow, and those who have, for whatever reason, been passed over by the game. Barker will almost assuredly not make the Nationals this season, and he is likely for all intensive purposes just playing for a minor league contract, one last chance to keep the dream alive for one more season.
The Nats seem overloaded with first baseman of the left handed variety while only 2 of the right handed variety (and one is slated for left field): LaRoche, Aubrey, and Barker. With prospect Marerro and Mike Morse able to play the position and hit with power. Not all are going to make either the Nats or the Chiefs unless they play another position since Marerro is almost a sure bet to be in Syracuse.
At least he made it to the majors at all. The heartbreaking stories are those who got really close but never even had a taste. I realize that he wasn't a great player, but Larry Broadway came so very close to making the Nats a few times, but ended his career (I assume) without ever breaking through even once.
I agree that this is one of the truly enjoyable aspects of Spring Training that do not happen any other time.
@KevinJohnCostello Broadway is a great example. He's retired now, but I'm sure in 2009 when he showed up to Pirates camp, many in the stands were charmed to look up the career of a guy with a name like Broadway.
In 2009 Broadway even pitched three innings in AAA!