By STEVE KRAH
It’s been an eventful last six months or so for Tucker Barnhart.
In August, the Cincinnati Reds catcher and Indiana native and wife Sierra welcomed first child Tatum into the world. Before you knew it Tucker was buying a tiny catcher’s mitt he found on Amazon.com.
“I was bored one day and I was trying to find a glove,” says Barnhart. “It just so happened there was a (miniature) black and red catcher’s glove. It made a ton of sense to grab it.”
In September, the switch-hitting backstop signed a four-year contract extension that will keep him with the Reds through at least the 2021 season. The deal also includes a club option for 2022.
In October, the 2009 Brownsburg High School graduate rapped his fourth Major League Baseball season with career-high totals for batting average (.270), on-base percentage (.347), slugging percentage (.403) and games played (121).
“Tucker’s going to get the lion’s share of the playing time now; he’s earned that,” said Price.
“He has stamped himself — without a doubt — as a day-to-day big league catcher,” says Marty Brenneman, the Reds radio play-by-play voice since 1974. “He’s a guy who’s wonderful at handling a pitching staff, a guy who proved he could hit big league pitching before than the Average Joe. And above all that, he won the Gold Glove for defensive excellence in the National League.”
Brenneman calls Barnhart beating out St. Louis Cardinals receiver Yadier Molina — eight times a Gold Glove winner and NL All-Star — “a big, big deal.”
November was also a time celebrate his second wedding anniversary. Tucker is married to the former Sierra Thompson.
While adapting to fatherhood and recovering from the grind of the long season, the Zionsville resident has found the time to take in Indianapolis Colts and Indiana Pacers games.
“I’m a big-time Pacers fan,” says Barnhart. “Basketball is my favorite sport. It’s in my blood.”
Years later, Barnhart looks into the stands at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati and sees a lot of Bulldogs purple and white.
“Mike’s a great guy,” Barnhart says of Shirley, a national cross-checker scout for the Chicago White Sox. “I’ve worked with Mike since I was I would say 11 years old. Other than my dad (Kevin Barnhart), Mike has seen my swing more than any other person around. I trust Mike a lot. He’s cutting edge. He looks at all the numbers and all that stuff. I really appreciate the work he’s done for me.
“We look at video of other hitters and things that they do that I can do or things that I do that are similar to what they do. We do a lot more talking than hitting, which is good in my opinion.”
Barnhart said his offense has picked up as he has gotten more familiar with National League pitching.
“It’s facing the same guys over and over again seeing how they pitch you and how to attack them as a hitter,” says Barnhart. “Obviously, I’d like to grow as a hitter. I think I could drive some more balls. I don’t know if that’s going result in more home runs (than the seven he hit in both 2016 and 2017) or more doubles or what have you, but I’m getting more out of my swing.
“I’m getting stronger and more explosive.”
There continues to be an education — in baseball and in life — from his father.
“What haven’t I learned from Kevin Barnhart?,” says Tucker, who turned 27 on Jan. 7. “My dad has been so instrumental in my career.”
Kevin Barnhart is an instructor at Samp’s Hack Shack in Brownsburg, a facility owned by former big league pitcher Bill Sampen.
Tucker also offers a shout-out to mother Pam Barnhart, sister Paige Barnhart and the rest of his relatives.
“I wouldn’t be where I am without (my family),” says Tucker. “I am extremely thankful.
“Being a dad (myself) puts that all into perspective.”
Tucker went on paternity leave Aug. 31-Sept. 3 to be with Sierra and Tatum.
“It’s difficult and it’s the best thing ever,” says Barnhart of fatherhood. “No matter what kind of day I’m having when I see him smile, that’s all that matters.”
Barnhart also found the time to make western swing of the Reds Caravan.
“That’s pretty humbling,” says Barnhart, who was selected in the 10th round of the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Reds and won an MiLB Gold Glove in 2011 and the Reds Joe Nuxhall Good Guy Award in voting of the Cincinnati chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in 2016.
Barnhart played six seasons with the Bulls He made the 13U team at 11, but was not allowed to play for the fear of getting hurt. At 12, he played for the 13U squad then played 13U, 14U, 15,U 16U and 17U.
“It’s going to be a message of hard work, dedication and having fun,” says Barnhart of his remarks to Bulls players and parents. “You have to be able to have fun to get the most out of yourself. To achieve all the things you want to achieve in your life — whether it’s in baseball or in anything.”
The Barnharts plan to leave Thursday, Feb. 1 for spring training camp in Goodyear, Ariz. Pitchers and catchers are to report Feb. 13 (position players Feb. 18).
Cincinnati’s first Cactus League spring game is scheduled for Feb. 23. The season opener is slated for March 29.
Tucker Barnhart, a Brownsburg (Ind.) High School graduate, goes into spring training 2018 as the primary catcher for the Cincinnati Reds. (MLB Photo)