Sports

TJ grad will pitch at Arizona State

By CASEY OLSON

Sports editor

Tony Barnette honestly can’t believe what has happened to him since he left the halls of Thomas Jefferson High School.

“I am living out my dreams,” the 2002 TJ grad said.

Barnette is currently in his sophomore season on the Central Arizona Junior College baseball team and has already signed a National Letter of Intent to play at national power Arizona State next year as a junior. The 6-foot-2, right-handed pitcher is a perfect 12-0 with an earned-run average under 2.00 during his two seasons at Central Arizona.

Statistics that are quite a contrast to his final season on the Jefferson baseball team. Barnette’s senior year yielded an awful 1-6 record on the mound and not a whole lot of calls from college recruiters.

Things have changed.

“I never thought that I’d be going to ASU coming out of TJ,” Barnette said. “This is the total opposite of my senior year. We were the bottom of the barrel.”

That year, the Raiders returned nine seniors, but lost eight one-run games on their way to a 4-12 record.

“We just didn’t click,” Barnette said. “We just couldn’t put together a win. It was just one of those years.”

This year, Barnette’s Central Arizona team is currently ranked fourth in the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Division I poll with a 36-9 record and 23-3 to lead the Cactus Division of the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference. This year, Barnette is 7-0 with a 1.99 ERA. He finished with a perfect 5-0 record on the mound last year with a miniscule 1.66 ERA.

“He is a great kid who works very hard,” Central Arizona coach Clint Myers said. “He really deserves the success he is having. He has worked hard to get it.”

Barnette’s journey into the Valley of the Sun was made possible by his involvement with the select 18-under Triple Play Baseball Club and its manager, Jerry Hardin. Every year around Thanksgiving, Hardin takes his team down to Arizona to play in a tournament. It was then that Barnette caught the eye of Myers.

“They offered me a scholarship that weekend and I signed,” Barnette said. “It has been more than I ever expected.”

About the only thing Barnette can find to complain about is the Arizona weather — and that complaint isn’t very loud.

“It gets pretty hot down here,” he said. “But everybody comes to Arizona to play baseball.”

“It was tough to see him go down there at first,” said Tony’s dad, Phil. “But we’ve always been a baseball family and you had to go where someone makes you an offer. I think it was important for him to get outside of the state of Washington and actually play all season long in decent weather.”

The one thing the nice Arizona weather does is make it easier to get loose, compared to the rainy, windy and cold Western Washington springs Barnette pitched in. His fastball touches 90 mph, which makes his slider and change-up all the more effective.

“He is just a phenomenal talent,” said current Decatur coach Steve Murphy, who coached Barnette during his junior high days at Kilo. “He is the one guy that I’ve ever coached who, I can say, has big-league talent.”

Barnette will most likely be picked in the June Major League Draft, but he said it’s going to take a lot for him to give up his childhood dream of pitching at Arizona State for at least one season.

“I’m going to play baseball until somebody tells me I can’t play anymore,” he said.

Where Are They Now? chronicles what Federal Way athletes have been doing after high school. Contact sports@fedwaymirror.com with possible story ideas.

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