Barrett Returns to Lead MVNC in Fifth Year
By Darin David, NAIA Public Relations Assistant
With every player from the most successful baseball class in the history of Mount Vernon Nazarene College (Ohio) history graduating, Sean Barrett was left with what seemed to be a tough decision. Would it be better to exit with his teammates following the Cougars first appearance in the NAIA Baseball World Series in 1997 or return for a fifth year?
Barrett had the option since a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during his sophomore academic year wiped out a season. His marriage to high school sweetheart, Darlene, in 1996 and his belief that there was nothing left to accomplish on the diamond factored into the decision. But there was something that brought him back for one more year.
"I dont know if I know what decided it, he says. "I tore my ACL, and that put things in perspective. Everything happens for a reason, and I knew that God had a plan for me. (Coming back) gave me a chance to add a business administration major to my sports management degree.
"When my class came in in 1994, we had the goal to some day reach the world series. It seemed like we got closer and closer each year. Once we reached it, it was a tremendous feeling to get out there. All of our goals had finally been met.
MVNC was 47-8 in 1997 including a spot as the fifth-seeded team in the NAIA World Series. As an outfielder, Barrett batted .407 for that team with six home runs and 51 RBI to earn second-team NAIA All-American status. In returning this year, he moved into the clean-up spot and took on more of a leadership role.
"The biggest thing Ive tried to work on is to be a team leader, he says. "I want to be an example to the younger guys on the team who came in this year. Weve had good leaders in the past, and I thought I could make an impact that way.
Says Head Coach Keith Veale: "When I think of Sean, I think of consistency, on the field and off the field. His highs are lows and his lows are highs. Whatever role he has been given, he has taken it and made the best of it. But he does it in a subtle, quiet way. Hes not the rah-rah kind of guy, but he really befriends the younger guys.
Barrett gives much of the credit for his success and his career at MVNC to Veale, since the coach gave him a chance as a freshman walk-on from Brookville, Ohio. All Barrett did was lead the team in hitting that season. Since then, Veale has helped him in many other situations.
"Hes more than a coach, hes like a father, minister and best friend, Barrett says. "He cares about his players more than any coach Ive seen. He has taught me how to handle adversity like the ACL injury and the death of a teammate (Matt Rice) in my junior year. That was the hardest point. He taught me how to be a leader and how to be part of a team. I think I can take anything from the baseball team and apply it to different parts of life in general.
Following Veales example, Barrett would eventually like to become a coach or work with kids, but he says he will probably start out operating a sports store or sports club. Rightfully so, he has more of an eye on the future since marrying Darlene. He believes that life as a married student-athlete gave him a different perspective and made college a little easier.
"Im a better person now, he says. "(Being married) makes it so much easier for me. I dont have to go through things alone. If I go through a slump, she is there to pick me up, and being married taught me how to handle a lot more responsibility.
"One important lesson Ive learned is that you have to have priorities. For me, its God, family, school then baseball after that. If you put God first, everything else falls into place.
Barretts accomplishments serve as a testimony to that. Midway through this season, he had raised his power numbers (seven homers) and the team resumed its winning ways at 21-6. He is in the top 10 of nine career statistical categories for the Cougars including third in batting average (.389) and fourth in doubles (44). But the legacy he hopes to leave at MVNC has less to do with baseball.
"Its not a matter of what kind of numbers I want to put up on the field, he says. "I want to be remembered as a good person more than just a baseball player. I want to be someone who made a difference and serves as a good example.