ARLINGTON -- After games, Rangers closer Joe Barlow will sometimes check his phone to see more than 200 messages in one iMessage group chat. It’s called the “Barlow Bunch” and it consists of him, his parents and his 11 (yes, 11!) siblings.
He can list them all in order, too, starting with Charlotte, the oldest sister. “Then Luke, Josh, Leah, Mary, Ethan, Sam, me, Jacob, Daniel and Andrew,” Barlow rips them off with practiced ease.
Barlow admits it was a chaotic household -- and how could it not be? But his mom, ever the planner, kept things in order. They had a chores-and-laundry schedule that had to be followed very strictly, or else the rest of the week was thrown out of whack.
He added that growing up with that many people in one household prepared him, both in life and in baseball, in a variety of ways.
“I think that with that many siblings, you definitely have to develop teamwork,” Barlow said. “And then especially having that many brothers, you just kind of get used to talking crap. When I'm in the bullpen, and the fans are letting me have it, it kind of makes me feel comfortable because I'm kind of used to that from my brothers growing up. I just think it definitely prepared me for a lot of circumstances.”
Coming from a family as frenzied as that, it’s almost a shock that Barlow is as calm as he presents himself. Whether it’s on the mound at Yankee Stadium or in the clubhouse, Barlow always appears unbothered by the outside world. That’s by design for the pitcher, even though he grew up a middle child in a household of 13.
After hitting a “crossroad” in his career in 2019, Barlow began to realize that mindfulness matters in baseball and pitching specifically. While he kept working on his mechanics, hoping to improve throughout the Minors, it should have been his mindset that he was working on.
It was a conversation with one of Barlow’s older brothers that opened his mind to a whole new world of mental growth and self-knowledge.
He started reading books about mindfulness and discipline, some recommended to him by his trainer in Arizona and others from various friends and staff members. With 18 on his list, he’s knocked about half out. His current challenge is “The Champion's Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train, and Thrive” by Jim Afremow.
Barlow even started meditating, recognizing that it’s important for him to slow down the world around him in order to be successful. And he has. So far this season, Barlow is 5-for-5 in save opportunities with a 1.74 ERA.
“It's probably been one of the biggest things in my career, for sure,” Barlow said of what these books have taught him. “I feel like it helps me in all situations. There's been so many times where I've read something that I thought was interesting, but I didn't think I needed. Then, two months later, I’m in a situation where I'm having negative thoughts and I know what to do. Like, I've read about this and I know how to use my mind to help me instead of hurt me. So, it's been massive.”