By STEVE KRAH
Clint Barmes and his family reside about 30 miles north of Denver in Mead, Colo.
There they can experience a “Rocky Mountain High.”
The past two Fridays, Barmes has experienced highs back on his native soil.
On Jan. 10, the Vincennes, Ind., native was inducted into the Indiana State Athletics Hall of Fame in Terre Haute. He went into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame on Jan. 17 at a ceremony in Indianapolis.
The Class of 2020 also included George Cuppy, Tony Uggen, Scott Upp and Brian Abbott. Dennis Kas was recognized in the Hall of Fame spotlight.
Barnes, a 1997 graduate of Vincennes Lincoln High School, played two seasons at Olney (Ill.) Central College and one at Indiana State University. A shortstop, he was selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 10th round of the 2000 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft and made is big league debut in 2003. He played with the Rockies, Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Pirates and San Diego Padres and retired after the 2016 season in the Kansas City Royals organization.
His 13-year career included 1,186 games, a .245 batting average, 89 home runs, 208 doubles, 43 stolen bases and 415 runs batted in.
Since retiring, Barmes has jumped into youth coaching. He is part-time assistant baseball coach at Berthoud (Colo.) High School. Much of his time is spent coaching his own children.
Clint and Summer Barmes’ son Wyatt (12) and daughter Whitney (9) are involved in sports and are coached by one or both parents — Wyatt in baseball, basketball and soccer, Whitney in softball, basketball and soccer.
“Our weeks are pretty full,” says Barmes, who was going to go to Los Angeles from Indianapolis for Wyatt’s all-star travel tournament.
“We didn’t want to burn him out,” says Barmes. “He still wants to work and do that kind of stuff in the wintertime. I don’t want to hold him back either.
“I wanted to give him a chance to see what other talent’s out there at his age level and keep him going in sports.”
When Clint Barmes was 12 he was playing about 25 Bambino League baseball games a year in Vincennes. He played at Lincoln High for Phil Halsema and Chris Rhodes.
“I was a Cardinal fan growing up and I wanted to play in the big leagues,” says Barmes of his boyhood aspirations. “That didn’t change until around my senior year in high school. I didn’t know if it was going to happen for me. I was open to play college ball. Just past high school.
“At Olney Central, I got a little bigger and a little stronger. The work I was putting in compared to the high school level was night and day. Putting all that extra work into it, I really started to take off.”
Barmes played for head coach Dennis Conley at OCC.
“(Conley) taught the game and it was more than just seeing the ball, hitting the ball, catching it and throwing it,” says Barmes. “It was breaking down the simplicities of the game and trying to follow and think ahead.
“That’s when all that stuff really started to come to me. It started with him. He’s a brilliant man. He’s really passionate and knowledgable about the game.”
Barmes is grateful what Conley did for him when he was a player there and also for the chance to come back during the winters as a professional and train since Olney is only about 30 miles from Vincennes.
At ISU, Barmes played for Bob Warn. He credits the IHSBCA Hall of Famer for giving him freedom while also adding to his game.
“(Barmes) allowed me to play and be the type of player that I was at that time,” says Barmes. “He could have broken me down. There was so many things that I was doing that weren’t the right ways to do it.
“Once I got into pro ball I had to completely change my swing. But, thankfully, I had success like I did (Barmes hit 375 with 93 hits, 18 doubles, seven triples and 10 home runs to go along with 63 runs scored, 37 RBI and 20 stolen bases as a Sycamore). He let me play.
“I remember learning to play the game the right way once I got to college. It was anticipating — especially at shortstop. I was learning how to pay attention to hitters and pitchers on the mound and what they’re trying to do. It was following the game and whatever is being called. Before, I was waiting for the ball to be hit my direction as simple as that sounds.”
“You look at the sweet spot on a metal bat compared to a wooden bat — not to mention the weight is a little heaver with wood,” says Barmes. “I learned to use my hands and work down and through the ball to create backspin. (With a metal bat), I would get a little long, drop my back side and try to lift. I was thinking that was how you were supposed to drive the ball.
“The (metal) bats we used were pretty loaded when I played in high school and even college. You could get jammed and still hit home runs. The ball off our bats was pretty hot.”
While Barmes was used at other positions (he logged 351 MLB appearances as a second baseman), he identified himself as a shortstop.
“That’s where I loved to play,” says Barmes. “Shortstop was always my love. That was always my favorite position.”
Barmes came to understand what it meant to shift and that if the pitcher hit his spot, it was likely the hitter would send the ball to a certain spot on the infield and he would be ready for it.
“You try not to give it up too early,” says Barmes. “But you start cheating (in that direction) in certain ways.”
There came a point where Barmes might be asked to play in the hole for a right-handed pull hitter or told to play right of the bag with a hitter who projects to hit it that way.
“(Shifting) never happened to me until I was in the big leagues,” says Barmes. “Nowadays, I’ve seen it in Little League.”
Don Baylor was Barmes’ manager in Colorado.
“Don was a great coach all-around,” says Barmes. “He was very knowledgable about the game and more on the mental side.
“At the big league level, that’s very important. If you can’t hit by the time you get to the big leagues, it’s going to be a struggle. Now you have to work with your mental and approach.”
Barmes says it helps to clear the mind so the hitter can focus on seeing the ball or what they’re going to do in a particular (ball-strike) count.
“(Baylor) talked about throwing your hands in the slot,” says Barmes. “I picked that up from Don (as well as Cockrell, White and Todd).
“That was the old-school way of teaching hitting and it worked for me. My hands started my swing and my body would kind of do what it does. If I started thinking lower half or anything but my hands, a lot of times it slowed me down.”
Clint was not the first Barmes to play in the majors. A relative on his grandfather’s side of the family — Vincennes-born Bruce “Squeaky” Barmes — got a September call-up with the 1953 Washington Senators. He played 11 full seasons (1950-60) in the minors and hit .318 and made all-star teams in the Florida State League and Tri-State League. A 5-foot-8 left-handed hitter, he was known for his speed.
“I didn’t meet Bruce until I was in A-ball,” says Barmes. “I was playing for Asheville (N.C.) and we were in Hickory (N.C.).
“This older gentleman is yelling at me from the concourse, ‘Hey Barmes!’ and at that point nobody ever pronounced it right (it’s Bar-Muss). This guy must know me because he’s saying my name right. He starts talking about Vincennes and throws out all these names of people I’m related to.”
After that, Clint got to know Bruce and his family and would see them on trips to the East Coast.
During his speech at the IHSBCA Hall of Fame dinner, Barmes thanked all his coaches from youth leagues on up.
“Now that I’ve been coaching, I understand what it means for these kids to get good coaching,” says Barmes. “The role they are playing is very important. The impact that they have on these young players may be more than they realize.
“I’m one of them.”
Clint Barmes, a Vincennes (Ind.) Lincoln High School graduate who played at Olney (Ill.) Central College, Indiana State University and 13 seasons in Major League Baseball, was inducted into the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame Jan. 17, 2020, in Indianapolis — a week after he went into the Indiana State Athletics Hall of Fame. (Steve Krah Photo)