Wheaton College To The Texas Rangers: Jared Barnes’ Baseball Journey
Jared Barnes loves baseball, and like many, he’s pursuing a dream of working in the sport he’s always loved.
Noontime Sports caught up with the former Wheaton College alum recently to talk about his love for the sport, as well as his current journey, which has landed him in Texas with the Rangers as baseball operations intern. Jared was so kind to share his story, along with provide insight on what it’s like to work in baseball, too.
1.) Going way back, way before Wheaton College, what was one of your first and fondest memories about the sport of baseball? Was there a moment from your youth that sticks out?
The first baseball memory that comes to mind for me is always my first trip to Fenway Park with my Dad in July of 1994. We sat five rows directly behind the Red Sox on-deck circle and it was my first real exposure to the game at the highest level. Ever since I think anyone who knows me can attest that baseball has been a pretty big part of my life.
It had always been my hope while growing up to play professionally, but unfortunately for many of us the game ends before reaching that point. Yet, a lot of my family memories are focused around the game of baseball. Family vacations were always spent at my baseball tournaments, and my Dad always devoted a lot of time to helping me workout and get better in the offseason. I had a lot of great experiences playing the game and was able to do so thanks to many sacrifices my parents made.
2.) What are some of your favorite memories about playing baseball for Wheaton College? Correct me if I’m wrong, but you were on the team that made it to the World Series in ’06, right?
I was a freshman on the 2006 team that went to the Division III World Series, and baseball-wise it’s tough to top that week. It’s an experience I will never forget and I was really fortunate to come in as a freshman and be a part of that team’s success. That’s something I will always be able to say I was a part of and is pretty special to me. It brought back a lot of memories watching Wheaton’s run to the national title game again this season, and was a really proud moment for a lot of the alums of the program.
Looking back though a lot of my favorite memories are the day-to-day occurrences that are a part of building a team and an identity each year. The bus rides, early morning sprint workouts, and lifelong friendships I formed with teammates are the special aspects of being a student-athlete, and I think anyone that played a collegiate sport misses some of that every day once it’s over.
3.) When did you know that baseball was going to be something you’d want to pursue after college? Was there someone who intrigued you into an operations position? If so, who?
My path to where I am now was somewhat of a circuitous one. Working in baseball operations was always something I knew I wanted to pursue, but had always considered it to be somewhat unattainable. I was well aware of how difficult it can be to break into the industry, especially in recent years with the notable successes by a number of younger executives in Major League front offices.
When I graduated from Wheaton in May of 2009, I was probably no different than a lot of college students in that I was pretty uncertain of what exactly the future held for me. I definitely went through some personal struggles of trying to find my calling in life. I worked a few jobs that I knew simply weren’t for me before I realized that I needed to be working in something I was passionate about.
So, in January 2010, I stumbled upon an article about current Blue Jays’ General Manager Alex Anthopoulos and his start at the low levels of the baseball industry, and it really lit a fire under me. Pretty shortly thereafter I decided that this is something I wanted to legitimately pursue, and I was willing to do whatever was necessary to get my foot in the door.
4.) Do you feel that there were certain tools you obtained from classes or professors or coaches at Wheaton that helped you become prepared for your current career path?
Academically, my Psychology Senior Seminar with Professor Kathleen Morgan really had an impact on me. It was really the first time I had to put a resume together with some semblance of an idea of what I may want to do with my life after college. That was a problem given that I really didn’t know at that point, but Professor Morgan was incredibly patient and understanding with me. And that was when the wheels started to turn a bit, and I started to internally question what I truly wanted to do with my life.
I can’t speak highly enough of the way that Coach Eric Podbelski and his entire staff conduct the baseball program at Wheaton, and my experience on the team shaped a lot of who I am today. We were fortunate to win a lot of games during my time there; and that is without a doubt a testament to the job he does as a coach. I took away a lot more off the field from the values that Coach practices and preaches to his players. Accountability and work ethic are a few staples of the program that really stay with me to this day in my every day life.
5.) What was your experience like with the Milwaukee Brewers? I understand that you were an associate scout, so what exactly were your duties? Also, what was one thing that you learned from that experience that has been a major boost for your success thus far?
I really owe my start in the industry to Brian Sankey, an area scout for the Brewers. He was a former high school coach of mine that I knew was now working as an amateur scout for Milwaukee. I reached out to him shortly after deciding that this was the direction I wanted to pursue and asked if he knew of any opportunities that would allow me to get my foot in the door. He graciously took me on as his associate scout, and I spent that spring learning and soaking up as much knowledge from him as possible about player evaluation. After tagging along with him to a number of games, he began sending me out on my own to see players. I developed my own preference list of players that I saw, and began writing my own scouting reports that I would send to him for review. My work was pretty rough, but he always answered any questions I had and provided a lot of feedback.
Afterward, I felt I needed to gain significantly more experience after the short spring season in the Northeast, so I quit my job and scouted the Cape Cod Baseball League for the entirety of that summer. By doing so I was exposed to some of the best amateur talent in the country and it really helped me develop a feel for seeing elite talent, as a number of those players would be taken in the top rounds of the following year’s draft. I also was able to interact with a number of other scouts and front office employees over the course of the summer, which really allowed me to further develop my network within the industry.
6.) What is something that a casual fan doesn’t know about an associate scout?
Personally, I had been unaware that such a position even existed prior to actually working as an associate scout. It’s amazing the number of people who really want to work in baseball, and those who want to become involved in scouting will often start as an unpaid volunteer to gain experience. I was still working full time in sales & customer relations when I began helping Brian, and spent almost every weekend seeing games on my own time. The experience and networking opportunities were far more valuable than any check I could have received, and it really benefited me being able to learn from the ground up.
I think people may not realize in general how difficult it is to actually scout and evaluate talent. There’s a big difference in simply watching a game as a fan and evaluating players, and I immediately learned that it’s not easy to do. The first report I ever wrote took me nearly three hours to finish. It was extremely difficult having enough confidence in yourself and what you saw to put a number grade on a player’s tools, while also being clear with your description of what a player does well.
7.) With the Red Sox, you were a video scouting intern. What were your duties? What’d you learn from this particular position? Also, as a local guy from Massachusetts, what was it like to be apart of the Red Sox family?
My position with the Red Sox came about as the result of meeting one of their staff members at a few college games the previous year. He’s another person that was extremely generous with his time and was always willing to keep in contact with me. By keeping the line of communication open, he ended up passing my name along for a video scouting internship at their Advanced Class-A affiliate in Salem, VA. I was working as a tax intern at PricewaterhouseCoopers at the time and had fully anticipated simply spending another year as an associate scout to gain more experience. After a few phone interviews I was offered the position, and despite the great opportunity at PwC, I simply couldn’t pass up the chance to advance in what I really wanted to.
In Salem I was responsible for capturing video of Red Sox prospects during each game, and would also edit the footage for the coaching and front office staff to view. I also used the BATS charting system, which is widely used throughout professional baseball, to chart each pitch while attaching the corresponding video clip from our centerfield camera. It was a lot more video work than I had ever been exposed to, but I think I indirectly gained a lot of insight simply through the repetition of watching hitters and pitchers on a daily basis.
Working for the Red Sox was really beneficial for me in learning about the Player Development side of the game and seeing what the players go through as they climb the organizational ladder. Of course it was exciting working for the team that I grew up rooting for, but it’s a bit different when you’re working for a club as opposed to simply being a fan. I was very fortunate to interact with and learn from their outstanding front office staff, coaching staff, and roving instructors, and it unquestionably helped me further my career in the industry.
8.) After two different stints with the Brewers and Red Sox, you’re now a baseball operations intern with the Texas Rangers. So, looking back on the past two experiences, what tools or experiences helped you land this particular position?
While it was my initial goal back in 2010 to land an internship in baseball operations, I’m a lot more prepared for the role now than I was at that point in time. I’ve been able to learn about scouting and the amateur side of the game, and have also seen the player development perspective while being exposed to some of the game’s top prospects. Simply from being around some highly intelligent baseball people, my knowledge of the game has increased significantly in recent years and I feel has prepared me to work at this level.
Just as importantly, however, I learned a lot about how to conduct you in the industry and how to be humble as a result of starting from the bottom of the ladder. I’ve been able to work around a lot of people who have forgotten more baseball than I will ever know, and by simply listening and being observant you can really learn a lot.
9.) What is an average day like for you working in baseball operations for the Rangers? What are some of your duties you have performed to this point?
One of the unique aspects of this role is that no two days are ever the same. Depending on the day or point in the season, you can be doing entirely different things. I spent a majority of the first half of the year focusing on the Amateur Draft: everything from compiling statistics of college players, to sorting scouting reports and medical documents, to preparing binders for our staff for the draft. I was fortunate enough to be allowed to be a part of the pre-draft meetings as well as the draft itself, which something I will always remember. Moving forward I’ll be doing more work on the pro side of the game.
I have my fair share of “intern” type duties as well, such as going on food runs for the front office staff or making trips to the airport. I learned pretty quickly last year that these are the types of tasks that are very much a part of paying your dues, and I feel it’s important to have the same high energy level and passion in executing these duties as you would any other task that you may be assigned.
The opportunity in Texas has been an unbelievable learning experience for me to this point. I’m fortunate to be around some really brilliant baseball minds on a daily basis and I try to soak up as much as possible from them to further develop my own skillset. I am treated incredibly well here, and the way they treat their employees in general is second-to-none. As much as I’ve learned about baseball during the internship, the importance of truly caring about your employees and people in general is something I will always take with me from this experience.
10.) Finally, what is the best thing about working in major league baseball? And also, what is the future for Jared Barnes, too?
It’s difficult for me to justify coming to a baseball stadium every day as “work,” but I think that’s what is special about working in baseball, right? There are long days and it can be a grind at times, but at the end of the day, I think people do it because they truly have a passion for the game, are highly competitive, and simply love what they do.
For me, personally, being able to be around something you are passionate about on a daily basis is significantly more important than the size of the paycheck at the end of the day. It’s been an exciting year for the club and I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the season transpires.
As far as what the future may hold for me, I think it’s really easy to get caught up in in the mindset of looking at the big picture of where you may hope to be in a year or five or ten. Yet, I really just try to focus on continuing to learn every day from the outstanding staff around me here in Texas while giving nothing but my best effort. I think that at the end of the day if you do those things that the rest will eventually take care of itself.
I have been incredibly blessed to have a lot of supportive people around me, most notably my parents for having enough faith in me to allow me to chase a dream in a unique field, and for some financial backing when it’s been necessary. Countless people in the baseball industry have been extremely generous with their time and their willingness to teach me. My journey from Wheaton College to the Rangers has a lot more to do with them than it does me, and I am extremely grateful for the many outstanding people I have interacted with. I simply hope that I have the opportunity to pay it forward in the future.