Barnes works his way to the Majors

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 6, 2003

Catcher Justin Barnes, a former member of the Demopolis High School Tigers baseball team, once was concerned about getting a chance to play college baseball.

However, he now has more lofty goals as a rookie in the Detroit Tigers farm system. He was drafted this year in the 32nd round (the second day of the draft).

Barnes left for professional camp two days after being told he was drafted.

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During his 1999 senior season with DHS, he hit .598, had nine home runs and 60 RBI’s. "I told myself after my junior year that it was my dream to play college baseball," Barnes said. "I just worked as hard as I could and try to do as much as I could to get to college."

The DHS team was 18-6 in his senior year. They made it to the second round of the state playoff.

He struggled his first few years at UAH. Barnes started all four years in college. "I got a lot better as a catcher. When I first got up there, I was more focused on my hitting. They taught me that I needed to concentrate on both, be a more rounded player.

His ability as a catcher is what attracted the professional scouts, Barnes said.

The UAH team, a Division Two team, was ranked number one in the nation when Barnes was a sophomore there. UAH also won the Gulf South championship that year.

The UAH Chargers finished the 2003 season 31-23, co-champions of the Gulf South Conference East Division and runner up in the GSC Tournament.

Barnes’ roommate Adam Bass was drafted in the 10th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Scouts began to look at both Barnes and Bass in the junior year at UAH. Baseball players at a four-year college cannot be drafted by the majors until after the junior year, he said.

Barnes and Bass also earned All-Tournament honors in the 2003 Gulf South tournament.

Barnes is currently playing in the Rookie League for the Gulf Coast League Tigers, who are based in Lakeland, Florida. There are several minor league divisions, including Rookie, Short Season A, Low A, High A, Double A and Triple A.

There are 60 games in the three-month Rookie league season, he said, and will finish August 24.

He currently has a .250 batting average to the Lakeland team.

The coaching is pretty strict in the Rookie league. "They stay on you," he said. "It’s more of a learning (experience). They teach you a lot down here."

Barnes was born in Meridian, Mississippi, but raised in Demopolis. His parents are Larry and Judy Barnes.

He tries to come home to Demopolis as much as possible. Jumping from college to pro seasons has not given him much time. "I’ve been playing non stop since January." However, Barnes plans to visit his parents in August.

He will go back to school this fall at UAH.

Barnes hasn’t forgotten his days in Demopolis. Coach James Moody has built a good baseball program at DHS, he said. "He’s got good talent and should have for the next two years.

He was a friend then, and Barnes said Moody has remained a friend.