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Barrett makes 26-hr. odyssey for son's birth

Nats reliever drives from Virginia to Florida and back in time to pitch
@jessicacamerato
September 16, 2020

Aaron Barrett’s never been one to let obstacles stand in his way, and a 13-hour car ride certainly wasn’t going to stop him from being there for one of his life’s most important moments. Barrett was pitching at the Nationals' alternate site in Fredericksburg, Va., last week when he got

Aaron Barrett’s never been one to let obstacles stand in his way, and a 13-hour car ride certainly wasn’t going to stop him from being there for one of his life’s most important moments.

Barrett was pitching at the Nationals' alternate site in Fredericksburg, Va., last week when he got the call from his wife, Kendyl, that she was going to the hospital for the birth of their son -- in Florida. The right-hander jumped into action, renting a car and hitting the road to travel south.

Box score: Rays 6, Nats 1

On Thursday, he introduced Paxtyn James Barrett to the world on social media.

Barrett, 32, quickly had to shift from dad mode to baseball mode. He still was chasing a chance to pitch in the Major Leagues this season, healthy after lengthy battles with injuries that included Tommy John surgery and a broken humerus bone. Barrett wanted to continue his momentum from last season, when he made an emotional comeback with the Nationals on Sept. 7.

“I knew I also needed to get back, especially if I wanted an opportunity to potentially have a shot to go back to the big leagues,” he said. “So I get back in the rental car, drive 13 hours again back to the alternate site.”

Barrett arrived in Fredericksburg in time for the six o’clock start.

“I get there, I’m on fumes, crush a Red Bull,” he recounted. “They asked me if I can pitch. I said, ‘Sure. Why not? OK.’ I go out and dominated my inning, and then I think I passed out.”

As if that wasn’t enough of a whirlwind, Barrett made another trip to Florida this week. Only this time, it was as a member of the Nationals to face the Rays in St. Petersburg. The team recalled Barrett on Tuesday after placing late-inning right-hander Tanner Rainey on the injured list with a right flexor strain, retroactive to Saturday, as a precautionary measure.

“I’ve been waiting patiently throughout the year,” Barrett said. “Obviously, I’m super excited to be back. Unfortunately, under the circumstances it was under someone else getting hurt. But obviously I’m super pumped to be back and help these guys win some games.”

Manager Dave Martinez said Barrett had been “throwing the ball well” at the alternate training site, and he gives them a veteran presence in the bullpen who can match up with righties. Then there is Barrett’s undeniable passion for the game.

“I love him,” Martinez said. “He brings a lot of energy. He’s a great guy, a great teammate, so I’m happy that he’s back.”

An enthusiastic Barrett threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings in the Nationals' 6-1 loss to the Rays on Tuesday. He struck out one, issued one walk and allowed two hits over 22 pitches (12 strikes).

“I was trying to have fun, trying to keep us in the ballgame and trying to make pitches,” Barrett said. “[I] really enjoyed it and had a great time.”

Barrett faced two batters in the sixth and ended the inning with a double play. He allowed a leadoff single in the seventh inning but followed with a strikeout, a lineout, an intentional walk and a groundout. His fastball maxed at 91 mph.

“He was good, really good,” Martinez said.

Twenty-six hours in the car and hundreds of miles later, Barrett was able to be there for the birth of his son and he earned a Major League recall. It was understandable why he was all smiles when he held a photo to the camera on his pregame Zoom call with reporters on Tuesday. It was a snapshot of his daughter and newborn son.

“That’s what it’s about -- right there,” he said. “That gives me all the motivation I need, regardless of what happens.”

Barrett added, “He’s making his debut this week, and I’m going to make my 2020 debut this week, too.”

Jessica Camerato covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @jessicacamerato, Facebook and Instagram.