With deep Arizona roots, D-backs reliever Barrett makes history in MLB debut

Arizona Diamondbacks right-handed relief pitcher Jake Barrett pitches in the top of the fifth inning against the Colorado Rockies on Opening Day. (Photo by Kris Vossmer/Cronkite News)

After Monday’s game, Jake Barrett took home one of the baseballs he threw in his MLB debut and the lineup card from the Arizona Diamondbacks Opening Day loss.

The mementos couldn’t have arrived at a more appropriate place – his childhood bedroom in Mesa, where he still lives with his mother.

He is, after all, the first player drafted by the franchise to have spent his entire high school and college careers in Arizona and then play for the Diamondbacks.

“I’ll probably end up framing that and putting it in my mom’s house,” Barrett said.

The 24-year-old right-handed relief pitcher completed his historic hometown journey with a scoreless inning of relief in the top of the fifth in the D-backs 10-5 loss to the Colorado Rockies.

“It hit me hard after my inning, I was like, ‘This just happened. I just did it. I completed everything I worked for,'” he said.

Barrett was born in Upland, California, but moved to Arizona when he was 2 months old. He played at Desert Ridge High School in Mesa and won a state title in 2009 as a senior starter. He went on to attend Arizona State University, where he was turned into a reliever.

“It’s a great experience,” Barrett said. “Growing up in Arizona, going to high school in Arizona, family is in Arizona, going to college in Arizona, and then being blessed to be drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks, it just gives you the chills when you think about it.”

His work ethic – and need to prove himself instead of feed his ego – became quickly evident on the field.

In high school, Barrett drove to California for a high-profile national baseball tournament, then thought nothing of traveling straight to Flagstaff to rejoin his high school team for one game.

“I was still young enough that I still wanted to prove to my coach that I was dedicated to my team and all of baseball,” Barrett said.

He remains hard-driven and humble. Big league life hasn’t changed him, said his former high school coach.

“That speaks to him,” Pat Herrera said. “He’s not what we call a ‘Bobby Big Leaguer.'”

He showed that early in his career at ASU, accepting a role as a relief pitcher.

“I don’t think he had any intentions of being a reliever, but he took that role and ran with it and just moved his way up the ranks,” Herrera said.

Barrett was drafted in the third round of the 2012 draft and became the fourth Sun Devil to play for the D-backs (Willie Bloomquist, Jake Elmore and Tuffy Gosewisch) and 105th overall to play in the majors.

Barrett played four years in the minor leagues before finding out Saturday he made it onto the big league roster from the entire coaching staff.

“They called me in and I didn’t know what to expect,” Barrett said. “Whether I was getting sent down or whether I was staying on the team, but there was a lot of emotions going through my head. I didn’t quite show it right away, but I did once I met up with my family and I was happy.”

Manager Chip Hale liked what he saw in spring training from the reliever.

“All the things that I had heard when I got the job that he had done in the minor leagues we really hadn’t seen last year,” Hale said. “So he came in a different guy, worked really well with Mike (Butcher) and Garvin (Alston), and we’re really happy with what we’ve seen. He earned it.”

His family has always been a big supporter of his; about 20 attended Opening Day. But Barrett hasn’t forgotten his baseball roots, regularly keeping in touch with old coaches.

“They’re always shooting me a text now and then asking me how I’m doing,” Barrett said. “They’ll watch an outing and they’ll ask me how I felt and I’ll tell them and they’ll tell me how they feel.”

Herrera was even in the loop with Barrett on him making the final cut.

“We text pretty regularly,” Herrera said. “Usually it’s after he pitches because I’ll get the reports and send something like ‘Atta boy, looked good’ and he’ll send back, ‘Thanks coach.’ I had asked him earlier in the week what he thought and he said he did everything he could and thought there was a good chance.”

Herrera said this is just Barrett’s first step. Watching him climb the ladder gives him chills.

“He’s grown at every level that he’s gone to,” Herrera said. “I think he’s going to be special. He’s got that mentality, pretty even-keeled kid.”