For the Arizona Diamondbacks, reliever Jake Barrett is a great story.
It’s not that he toiled in the minor leagues for a long time before finally getting a shot at the big leagues, nor has he dealt with a myriad of injuries only to finally put together a healthy season and reach the Show.
No, what makes Barrett’s story special is how he grew up in Arizona and attended Mesa Desert Ridge High School before attending Arizona State University.
With his appearance on Opening Night, he became the first player in franchise history to attend an Arizona high school and college before being drafted by and playing for the D-backs.
He went to games at Chase Field long before he got to play in it.
“Growing up, I think we went to a lot of games, actually, just — we weren’t season ticket holders but we would go and we would go to watch certain players,” Barrett told Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Friday. “Whenever the D-backs were playing really good teams, whenever we got the chance to go we would go and watch.”
Barrett said he remembers watching the 2001 D-backs, who won the World Series, and admitted it is a little strange to walk around the clubhouse and see guys who played a key role on that team, such as Mark Grace and Luis Gonzalez.
“But I’ve gotten a chance to meet some of them, too, so it’s pretty cool,” he said.
Given that the Diamondbacks have only been playing since 1998, about now is the time when there is a better chance of players who grew up rooting for the team reaching the major leagues. Still, Barrett’s path to the mound in downtown Phoenix is one only he has traveled, and it’s one he never would have gone down had Arizona not chosen him in the third round of the 2012 MLB Draft.
“It’s just crazy to think about,” he admitted. “I would have never thought it would happen to me, too, especially after getting drafted from out of high school by the Toronto Blue Jays and not talking to any of the Diamondbacks scouts when I was at ASU.
“It shocked me; it was awesome just to hear my name that day.”
Last season, Barrett spent time at both Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno, combining to go 4-3 with a 4.58 ERA in 53 innings. He struck out 51 and walked 23. The 24-year-old earned a spot on the Opening Day roster with an impressive spring, posting a 0.79 ERA in 11.1 innings of work.
He has gotten the call in three of the D-backs’ first four games to begin this season, and he has allowed two runs on four hits in 2.2 innings.
No matter what, however, he will always remember his first pitch as a big leaguer. He said there were about 20 to 25 family members and friends in the stands, and he was excited to give them something to cheer for.
“Just right when I heard my name get called in the bullpen, knowing I was getting ready to go in, I was amped up, had a lot of emotions going through my head,” he said. “Just tried not to think about it too much, but once I got on the mound and threw those couple warm-up pitches and took a deep breath, and looked around to see how many people were in the stands, it was great.”
Barrett’s first outing saw him allow one hit and no runs in one inning, with the same going for his second appearance. Thursday night, however, he surrendered two runs on two hits with one walk in while getting two outs to finish the fourth inning. It was a rough night, and for some young pitchers struggles like that could lead to concern that their stay in the majors may be short-lived.
“You can’t let that stuff get to you, really, because once you get that in your head, it’s just going to continue and it’s going to be in your head when you’re on the mound, too,” he said. “And you’re going to think about it too much.
“You’ve got to basically control what you can control — you can’t think outside.”