Before right-hander Matt Barnes can sign his first major league contract and begin his professional career in the Red Sox' organization, he and his UConn Huskies teammates have other matters they must take care of. They must get past the University of South Carolina this weekend in the NCAA super regional if they are to make a trip to Omaha in the College World Series. The last time the Huskies appeared in the CWS was 1979.
Barnes, the Red Sox No. 1 pick in this years draft, found out hed been selected on Monday by the Sox, with the 19th overall pick while the Huskies were beating Clemson.
Monday was a pretty hectic day between the regional and the draft, Barnes said. I had a lot of time with my parents and talked to them because, if anything needed to be taken care of, my parents were going to have to speak on my behalf. But my coaches and teammates were also really understanding. They let me be by my phone during batting practice and during the game in case anybody needed to get a hold of me. But once it came game time we had a couple of teammates who werent allowed to be in the dugout due to NCAA rules. They were standing outside and they were relaying messages to me about who was getting drafted, and every half inning Id go over and talk to them about that.
All in all, it was hectic, but it was a great day. Im very fortunate to be drafted by the Red Sox on Monday and to top it all off, we got the 'W' against Clemson and now were staying down here in South Carolina.
Barnes, one of 10 Huskies drafted this year, was surprised when he learned it was the Sox who had picked him. He knew they had watched his starts, and that general manager Theo Epstein was at one, but had not spoken with them directly.
I even asked my dad whether or not he had talked to them, Barnes said. I knew that they were interested, but I hadnt talked to them previously leading up to. So, I didnt know for sure that they were taking me until my name was called.
Barnes, who turns 21 on June 17, is 6-feet-4, 203 pounds with a fastball in the 91-93 range. He posted a record of 11-4 with a 1.62 ERA in 16 starts spanning 116 23 innings this season for the Huskies. He was a unanimous choice as the Big East Pitcher of the Year, the first UConn player to earn the honor since former major leaguer Charles Nagy received the award in 1988 and 1989. Barnes won the Big East pitching Triple Crown, leading the conference in wins (11), strikeouts (97) and ERA (1.20) during the regular season, walking just 26 batters in 105.0 innings and limiting opponents to a .163 batting average. He has 241 career strikeouts, just two behind UConn all-time leader Ed Baird, who set the record in 1966-68.
Barnes, who grew up a Yankees fan, sees the humor in being taken by their rivals.
Its definitely ironic. But as much as Ive always been a Yankees fan, Ive always respected the Red Sox, he said. So Im very excited for the opportunity to play for the Red Sox and I know that theyll take care of me just fine.
He wasnt drafted out of Bethel (Conn.) High three years ago. Hes used the time since then to develop, as a person, as a player. Playing at UConn, in the Cape Cod League, and for Team USA has helped him mature, refine his pitching and develop his confidence.
Barnes is glad to have the draft behind him, allowing him and his teammates to focus on the NCAA tournament and a possible trip to Omaha. Hes not sure how quickly he will sign the Sox.
Obviously, we still have hopefully a couple of weeks at UConn, he said. I have some time left here and once the season is over with UConn, I'll sit down with my parents and talk about it. Well talk to the Red Sox, see what they want to do. I pitched a lot of innings at UConn so far this year. So they might want me to take a little time off or they might want me to come out and get going. Thats something thats probably going to come up once the UConn season is over. When that comes up well deal with that then.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen