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DP Q&A - A Life in Baseball: Travis Barbary

BarbaryTravis-16My name is Travis Barbary and I currently serve as the catching coordinator for the Los Angeles Dodgers. I’m entering my 23rd year in the Dodger organization. I played briefly in the minor leagues with Dodgers and I have also served as a Minor League manager and coach. I also spent four years with the Major League club as a bullpen catcher. I graduated from Easley HS and went on to play collegiately at SMC and the University of Virginia.

DP- Describe your HS playing experience:

TB- I was fortunate to have come through Easley HS at a great time. Easley was producing a lot of players that were continuing on to play at the collegiate level. We made the playoffs my tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grade seasons. We advanced to the state championship my junior season where we ended up losing to Georgetown HS.

DP- Describe your playing experience past HS:

TB- I attended SMC for two seasons where I was able to play for Lon Joyce, a man that I have a tremendous amount of respect for. He had such an influence on me as player and as a young man. After SMC, I played at the University of Virginia and then signed with the Dodgers as a free agent after college.

DP- What did baseball mean to you as a player? What does the game mean to you now?

TB- As a young man, baseball was probably the most important thing in my life. I dedicated myself to becoming the best at what I did. However, looking back, I didn’t enjoy playing the game as much as I should have because I put too much pressure on myself to be perfect. Now, as a coach, I try to get young players to understand that in order to improve, they have to make mistakes and learn from them. As a coach, I believe that giving a player permission to make mistakes allows them to ultimately play with more freedom.

DP- What is your greatest high school thrill?

TB- Watching teammate Robbie Waldrop hit a HR to straight away center to beat Irmo in the upper state championship game my junior year to send us to the state championship to play Georgetown.

DP- What is your greatest baseball thrill after HS?

TB- Getting a call from Lon Joyce in February of 94’ with an invitation to go to spring training with the Dodgers.

DP- What is your greatest single moment as a coach/instructor?

TB- When AJ Ellis, a former Dodger catcher, called me and told me that he was getting called up to the big leagues for the first time. AJ and I had spent a ton of time working together and he knew that it meant a lot to me to see the hard work pay off. 

DP- Tell us a good story with you as in your current role:

TB- Usually during Major League spring training, my only responsibility during games is to sit in the dugout and watch the catchers. However, this past spring training, we had a night game and the Major League bench coach was at another location due to a split squad. After the National Anthem, the manager, Dave Roberts, told me that I was serving as his bench coach. Needless to say, I was totally caught off guard. I had to run inside and get the lineup cards, pens, sharpies and a stop watch. I made it back just in time for the start of the game and acted like I had it all along.

DP- What is the most interesting, and PG-rated story, you can tell us about your life in the game?

TB- I was involved in a brawl in the stands at Wrigley Field in Chicago when one of our catchers went into the stands after getting his hat taken by a fan. It was absolutely crazy. I got punched in the side of the head and a girl yanked my hat off my head during the brawl. I ended up getting suspended for five games by Frank Robinson, who was in charge of on field behavior or in this case, off the field behavior. When we went back to Chicago the following year, a Cub’s fan approached me before a game and he had my hat from the fight the previous year and he offered to sell it back to me. I told him there was no chance that I was paying to get my hat back.

DP- Where does your love for baseball come from?

TB- I grew up in a family of former players. My grandfather, Red Barbary, was a catcher in the Washington Senators organization as well as a player/manager in the old textile leagues after his pro career. My father, Eddie, was a catcher at Clemson back in the mid-60’s and he had a brief minor league career with the Pittsburgh Pirates before going into coaching. These two men were invaluable in developing my love for the game as a baseball player and coach.

DP- Who are the three toughest pitchers you have faced, caught? 

TB- I was such a bad hitter that I thought every pitcher was the toughest pitcher I ever faced. As far as the toughest pitchers I have caught, I would have to say Kevin Brown and Darren Dreifort. Both guys had nasty sinkers/sliders and Brownie had a split that disappeared.

DP- As a Dodger lifer, what are the handful of things that you have valued the most about being a part of that storied franchise?

TB- There’s definitely a lot of history within the Dodger organization. I’ve been able to get to know many of the greats from the Brooklyn years such as Snider, Newcombe, Branca, Zimmer, Erskine, and listen to their stories from when they played. Their stories about Jackie Robinson and what he meant to baseball are captivating. Sitting at a table with Koufax and Kershaw during spring training and listening to them talk about pitching is amazing. Of course, there’s also the greatest ambassador for baseball, Tommy Lasorda, who is always hanging around the clubhouse motivating players. 

DP- Who were your 3-5 favorite teammates?

TB- Adrian Beltre, Eric Gagne, Trent Hackle (HS), Shawn Satterfield (HS/College), PJ Turner (Legion)

DP- When you have coached, name some of the peers you enjoyed working with the most:

TB- Mike Scioscia, Dave Anderson, Shawn Wooten, Marty Reed, Matt Herges, Dino Ebel, Tim Wallach

DP- Who has made the greatest impression on you as a person and why?

TB- My grandfather for sure. He taught me what hard work was. He showed me what it looked like to respect people and he always made me feel that things were never as bad as they seemed.

DP- Who has made the greatest impression on you as a baseball player and why? As a baseball coach and why?

TB- Lon Joyce probably had the biggest impact on me as a player. He really gave me self-confidence and believed in me. Randy Bray, my American Legion coach, had a huge impact on me as well. He challenged me every day to get better. He was always honest with me and let me know the areas in which I needed to improve as a player. Another person was my HS coach, Bert Owens. He spent countless hours with me at the ballpark. He was always available when I wanted to work. As a coach, my father played a major role in how I coach players today. When I was growing up, he was a baseball, football, and basketball coach at Easley High School. I watched how he treated his players. He truly loved them all. He had an amazing ability to challenge and encourage them and get the most out of them.

DP- What did you major in during college?

TB- Biology

DP- What MLB feat in history do you wish you’d been inside the stadium to witness and why?

TB- It’s definitely not a major feat in baseball history, but I would give anything to go back to May 22, 1943 and see my grandfather get his only Major League at bat as a member of the Washington Senators.

DP- Who is your favorite athlete outside of baseball and why?

TB- It’s definitely Rick Flair. He’s without a doubt the best entertainer ever.

DP- Who is your favorite MLB pitcher and position player to watch and why?

TB- Kershaw and Seager. They are both such great guys and they do it the right way. Kershaw is a tremendous competitor. His bullpen sessions are about as game like as it gets. He practices just like he plays. Seager is a tremendous talent. He plays the game with a quiet confidence and he is an awesome teammate.

DP- What do you think about the Designated Hitter in MLB?

TB- Not a fan.

DP- What is your favorite sport to play other than baseball?

TB- I’m not a good enough athlete to play any other sports.

DP- What is your favorite sport to watch other than baseball?

TB- College football

DP- What are some of your hobbies?

TB- I love to hunt.

DP- What is something funny or different that people don’t know about you?

TB- I have a huge fear of walking over bridges.

DP- Do you have a Twitter account? If so, who’s your favorite person to follow?

TB- I do have an account and my favorite to follow is @CoachWithLove

DP- Who is your favorite actor or actress?

TB- Andy Griffith

DP- What is your favorite movie?

TB- The Patriot

DP- What is your favorite thing to watch on television?

TB- The Andy Griffith Show

DP- What type of music do you prefer?

TB- Country and Contemporary Christian

BarbaryTravis-wife16DP- What goals do you have for yourself in and out of baseball?

TB- In the game, I want to continue to learn as much as I can about the game and pass it on to others. Outside of the game, I want to be the best husband and father I can be.

DP- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

TB- Hopefully I will still be able to do what I love and be involved in baseball.

DP- Give a young high school player who is reading this article one piece of advice:

TB- Enjoy the game. Baseball is such a hard game to play and we only make it harder by trying to be perfect. Don’t be afraid to fail. Our failures can be our best teacher. Pay attention to the game. Learn everything you can and then apply it. Be a great teammate.

Proverbs 16:9  “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”