18 year old Jack Barrie has been signed with the Minnesota Twins baseball team in America. Photo: Warren Lynam / Sunshine Coast Daily
18 year old Jack Barrie has been signed with the Minnesota Twins baseball team in America. Photo: Warren Lynam / Sunshine Coast Daily Warren Lynam

From Jack the ‘Skater Rat’ to baseball Hall of Famer

MALENY teenager Jack Barrie made national and international headlines after signing a lucrative six-figure deal with the Minnesota Twins in February, at just 18.

He has been described by Baseball Queensland's high performance manager, Andy Utting, as someone who "has as much raw power as anyone we've seen in this country for a long time".

He trains on the Maleny property which his late grandfather passed down to him and his mother Nicole, hitting 1800 balls a week, and fielding 1000 ground balls.

It was no wonder then that Jack was the standout at the national under-18 championships in Canberra, in January.

He helped Queensland win the title after claiming the Most Valuable Player and the best average.

He hit a rare 'cycle' - a feat in which he hit a single, double, triple and home run in the same game.

But it could have been so different for this super-talented prospect, who was rated 10/10 by Perfect Game USA's Player Rating System.

Nicole was forced to almost raise him singlehandedly, with the help of his grandmother and family friends, living out of her car at times while dropping him to baseball games and training all around the state.

Jack then became a self-described "skater rat".

A chance discovery of a baseball game in Cairns as a 14-year-old saved Jack, describing the first time he heard the sound of bat on ball as "love at first sight".

It has been a rapid rise since then.

The Twins' offer includes the opportunity for Jack to attend university anywhere in the world once his time playing professionally comes to an end, giving his hard-worker mother a massive sense of relief.

I met the well-mannered and charismatic Jack at the 18 years and under State Schools Championship, in Hendra, last weekend.

He was swamped with well-wishers from far and wide among the tight-knit baseball community.

He was then swamped with more well-wishers at the Queensland Baseball Hall of Fame awards in Brisbane that night, receiving a Junior Representative Achievement award, for his four years of service at national level.

This is Jack Barrie's incredible story.

Jack, you're now recognised by the Queensland Baseball Hall of Fame - your name is up there alongside legends such as Dave Nilsson. How do you feel about that?
"It's great to be a part of all that. It's very exciting and it's a real honour for me."

You must be delighted about signing your massive deal with the Minnesota Twins …
"For sure, it's awesome. But the main thing is trying to stay humble and not being over the top and cocky like some kids can get.
"I'm excited though. I'm hell keen just to get over there and get started."

When you come back to tournaments like this, this is what it's all about for you isn't it?
"Yeah, for sure. This was where it all started. You hang out with your friends and you play baseball.
"I love coming here and watching these games, it doesn't matter who's playing. I came down today to have a look and just catch up with some people. It's nice."

You played in this (schools) tournament last year didn't you?
"Yeah, I played under-18s. We did really well. Then Queensland went really well. I hit well too and we came third. We missed out on coming first by a few runs."

Has Queensland got a real underdog spirit when it comes to these national tournaments?
"Oh, for sure. We were the underdogs. We were set to lose and we almost won the whole thing. We definitely have that 'never say die' spirit - always."

Does that drive you individually as well?
"Yeah. The last (Australian Baseball Federation) nationals I was at I did quite well and put my name out there, and I probably wouldn't be where I'm at now if it wasn't for that.
"I went out there not playing for myself or anyone else - I went out there to try and win a national title.
"You know, not caring about the scouts in the stands. I just went out there with my goal, and everyone else's goal, to try and win a national title.
"And it all came together. That kind of spirit when you're playing together as Queenslanders, that underdog spirit, has really given me that drive and spark.
"You never want to say die, you never want to quit."

You've always been a hard worker - where did you get that from?
"My mum's always been there for me. It's also kind of been myself. I was a little skater rat when I was 14.
"So I went to myself 'I don't want to be like this. I want to work hard and try to achieve my goals'.
"I said to myself 'if I slack off I'm going to fail'. So I kept working hard every day, going out there and playing as hard I could."

Was there trouble you were getting into - alcohol on the streets and that sort of thing?
"Yeah, I'd rather not say, but it was that kind of stuff."

That's a great thing to know - that you've come a long way ever since …
"Yeah, definitely. I was a little skate park kid. I lived there, I didn't want to go home, I hated school, all that kind of stuff.
"Then as soon I started having goals and pushing myself, my grades went from Ds to Bs.
"Mum also helped me. She said 'if you fail school, you're not playing baseball'.
"It was all about having a drive and not having an out. People saying 'you're not good enough, you're not going to make this team', that was the biggest drive I had.
"I had people saying that I'm not good enough, I should play a different sport.
"I was like (laughing) 'no. I'll show you guys'."

When your mum sat you down and said 'if you don't get your act together, there's no baseball' … was that the moment for you?
"Kind of. It was more when I made my first Queensland squad and I moved down to the Gold Coast (from Cairns).
"That was the moment I thought 'you've got to start being responsible'.
"Before that, she sat me down and said 'you can't be doing this kind of crap if you want to be an athlete, or you want to be successful. You need to start working hard'.
"That's kind of been my driving force as well."

This stuff about how hard you practice at home - when did that start happening?
"From day dot. When I lived in Cairns we grabbed some old fishing nets and we chucked them around our garage, and I hit the ball into that.
"That was because half the time it was raining and I lived a fair way away from the park.
"I threw into it as well. That was where it all started and it built from there.
"Mum was also very supportive, running around for balls. She's the ball collector when I go hitting at the park.
"Then we upgraded. My grandfather, who passed away, gave us his house and we had a batting cage we built there.
"I lived down there for six hours a day. I'd hit 1800 balls a week.
"I'd also throw and do ground balls. I'd do 1000 ground balls a week. Just stuff like that.
"It's a one-of-kind, professional-looking cage. We had a pitching machine too - the whole nine yards.
"We definitely put a lot into it. It was an investment. I thought 'if I work hard and put a lot into this, then further down the track I can repay Mum'.
"That's also a big driving factor as well."

What does your mum do?
"She was a chef. There was a stage there where my grandma was raising me and my mum was doing 60-80 hours a week.
"She was doing crazy hours. Then she wanted to come to my games, and would take time off work, like maybe once a month.
"Just stuff like that. Then she hurt her arm and she couldn't really lift it over her head.
"She's doing better now. Now she works at a vineyard."

So now that you've signed this contract, to repay your mum must be so satisfying …
"Yeah definitely. I've made her proud, and everyone else that has supported me. I proved everyone that didn't support me wrong.
"This is a way to say thank you for all the years she's sacrificed for me, and spent money and sent me to tournaments."

I saw you just spoke to your 'second dad', as you called him - Waylon. What's he done for you?
"He looked after me. When I was at Queensland training down on the Gold Coast I'd finish at nine o'clock.
"I lived in Maleny so it was a three-hour drive. I'd get home at one o'clock at night sometimes, so I'd just stay at his house sometimes and sleep on his couch four nights a week.
"And then I'd drive down to school down at Kawana Waters, and do the same thing every day.
"Their whole family took me in - they loved and cared for me. I'm like another part of their family.
"Waylon's son Austin also plays (he played for Metropolitan North at the under-18 Queensland Schools Championships)."

What about your dad?
"He's not in the picture. He's not around.
"It's just me, my mum and my nan. That's the way it has been for a while.
"I love that and I don't feel out of place about it. I love everything I have and I'm content about everything I have."

When you got this contract offer, how did it all come about?
"We finished off at the national titles in Canberra in January. I got a call on the last day saying 'pack your bags, you're going to the Dominican Republic for 15 days' under the Texas Rangers and the Arizona Diamondbacks.
"And I was like 'oh wow'. So I packed my bags after getting off the plane from Canberra.
"It was amazing going over there and playing with all those guys.
"There were 70 Latino kids, and four white kids, and I was one of them.
"We got up a six o'clock in the morning and ran for 20 minutes, and then we did plyometrics.
"That involved plenty of high jumping, explosive jumping. And then we'd go and do legs in the gym.
"And then we'd start our day in ground balls and hitting. Then we'd do the whole thing again.
"They were big days. I did that for 10 days with the Rangers and then I went for four days with the Diamondbacks.
"I came back and they said 'we'll give you an offer once you talk with your mum about things'.
"I thought 'yeah sure, okay cool'. And they gave me an offer.
"Prior to that Minnesota was talking to us as well, same with the Cincinnati Reds.
"We were in quite a few discussions with quite a few people.
"I was content just about going to college over there. I was going to say 'I'm not ready for pro ball. I'm not ready physically and mentally'.
"But I thought about it and was like, 'nah, I think I am ready to take the plunge'.
"Minnesota gave me a great contract and a better deal than the other guys did.
"So I was like 'yeah sure, why not? Let's do it'."

So Minnesota really chased you hard?
"For sure. They were very keen from day dot.
"As soon as I got off the plane from Canberra, they pretty much said 'we want you'.
"They were very keen about everything. It was a massive bidding war for all of them I guess."

How did you find your experience training and living in the Dominican Republic?
"It was a very different experience. It makes you respect all the things you have, like seeing how they live and work.
"You drive past and you see people living in corrugated iron houses, and people walking around with crappy clothes, just stuff like that.
"It was an amazing experience. I loved every minute of it. It was awesome.
"It was great seeing all those guys and how they perform and how I match myself up against them.
"There were a lot of fast runners and hard throwers and big hitters. They had insane arms."

When did you notice the talent scouts first showing interest?
"That was in my second year playing for Queensland - I've played four years for my state. I was 15 or 16.
"They (the professional clubs) made me sign a professional contract. And I was like, 'I'm 16, I'm not ready for that now. I just want to go and have fun and play baseball. Maybe next year we'll see'.
"I had a few clubs there saying 'hey, sign this form - we're interested'.
"I was like 'nah I'll do it next year'.
"And then the next year came and I did really badly. I had a massive slump because I was worried about the scouts watching in the stands, and I needed to impress everybody.
"Then I was like 'that's not how I play. I don't like playing like that'.
"So this year I came out and was like, 'I'm just not going to care about anything. I'm just going to go out and try to play my natural game and try to win a title for my team'.
"And I did alright."

How did you feel when you officially got offered the contract from the Twins?
"It was actually quite a relief, because I was speaking to colleges and scouts for three or four weeks.
"I wasn't getting any sleep because I was worrying about it and thinking about it.
"I wasn't sleeping at all and nothing was happening.
"Mum walked in my room and woke me up at about seven o'clock in the morning and said 'hey, we got this offer. Do you want to take it?'
"And I was like, 'yeah sure, awesome'. Then I was like (breathes a huge sigh of relief) 'amazing'.
"Then she burst into tears because she realised I was going to leave her.
"Then she started bursting out laughing. All these emotions came out. It was quite an ordeal.
"It was quite a relief too, because that's your goal. But now the hard work starts.
"You've got to make new and better goals, and try to get up there in the big leagues.
"That's my aim at the moment."

So you'll be staring off in Rookie Ball with the Twins?
"Yeah. I made the rookie-ball team without even going to Spring Training.
"They don't have a first baseman either, so I should be getting plenty of game time.
"I'll be heading over there, and then hopefully I'll move my way up real quick."

When do you start playing and training?
"I should be getting over there in two weeks hopefully. I've been training and hitting and going to the gym and running trying to get ready for it.
"And I've been doing my own stuff in the batting cage.
"They've already started. They've been going for a month. But I just can't get over there because they're doing stuff with my paperwork and they're taking a long time, and trying to get it all sorted."

You've often mentioned staying grounded. They're throwing all this money at you and you're only a youngster. Do you feel staying grounded will be an attitude that will help you over there?
"For sure. You don't want to be that guy who is strutting out with his chest and thinks he's all good and that kind of thing.
"You want to be that humble guy who is friends with everyone; everyone likes you.
"You see those guys do really well all the time."
Aussies are respected in America because of that aren't we?
"Yeah you're right. We're very humble, Aussies in general. Americans are pretty out there.
"Being an Australian, they know Australians work hard."

When did the Brisbane Bandits come onto the scene?
"I made some reserve training squads and got told I may be playing for the Bandits next year.
"I'd love to play for them at Australia's highest level."

So you might come out here and consider playing 'winter ball' (in the Australian summer)?
"Yeah, if the Bandits want me to come play for them, that'd be awesome."

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