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Indians’ Andrew Barnett the ultimate ‘last-chance’ guy

Indians pitcher Andrew Barnett has taken advantage of some good fortune to keep his baseball career going. (Tyler Tjomsland)
Indians pitcher Andrew Barnett has taken advantage of some good fortune to keep his baseball career going. (Tyler Tjomsland)

Each time it looks as if Andrew Barnett’s baseball days are over, something brings him back to the game he loves.

The Spokane Indians starting pitcher figured his career was finished last month, after he completed his four years at Gardner-Webb (North Carolina) University and his name wasn’t called during the Major League Baseball draft. Two days later, the Texas Rangers called to offer him a free-agent contract to pitch in Spokane.

“I jumped on it and was flying out the next day,” Barnett said. “I was kind of under the impression that it was just a roster spot and that they needed somebody to come in and throw some innings. After the first or second game, when I was told I would be the fifth starter, I was very honored.”

Through six starts with Spokane, Barnett sports a 2-0 record with an ERA of 4.50.

Although he set Gardner-Webb’s career record for innings pitched (287), Barnett didn’t know until late in his senior year at High Point (North Carolina) Christian that his baseball career would continue. Gardner-Webb’s coaches had invited him to a fall camp and seemed interested, but the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ roster was full.

Early that spring, Barnett decided to attend Gardner-Webb with or without baseball, accepting a full-tuition scholarship to the university in Boiling Springs. His choice paid dividends.

“It was May 15 of my senior year, we were heading to the state semifinals,” he said, “and I got a call from Gardner-Webb’s pitching coach, saying, ‘Hey, we just had a guy transfer. I’d like to offer you a spot.’ ”

Barnett finished No. 2 in career strikeouts (270) with the Runnin’ Bulldogs, compiling a 15-9 record and 3.79 ERA.

It also took a bit of fortune for Barnett to play high school baseball. He enrolled at High Point Christian, a K-12 school, as a second-grader and was in seventh or eighth grade before the school installed a varsity baseball program. High Point won the State 2A baseball championship for private schools in 2009, Barnett’s junior year.

Barnett didn’t compete in any other sports in school, saying he was hooked on baseball the first time he played it.

Barnett and his younger sister, Victoria, went through High Point together. Their mother, Angie, home-schooled them for kindergarten and first grade and placed them together in second grade at High Point.

“There was a lot of sibling rivalry throughout school, so that pushed both of us to be the best,” Barnett said.

Victoria, Angie and father Randy were in attendance at Avista Stadium on July 8 when Barnett earned his first professional win.

Barnett said he’ll stick with baseball as long as he can. Should he advance up the ladder, the next steps in the Rangers’ farm system are Hickory (North Carolina), 90 minutes from the Barnett’s home, and Myrtle Beach (South Carolina), a four- or five-hour drive.

But as a fallback, Barnett graduated from Gardner-Webb in May with a computer science degree.

“Everybody’s career comes to an end at some point and whenever that time comes, luckily I already have my degree,” Barnett said.

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