If summer is any indication, the future for Cal Poly baseball team looks bright, at least behind the plate.
San Luis Obispo Blues catcher and Mustang Brett Barbier is having a breakout summer for the California Collegiate League team. Known for his strong arm, Barbier’s ability to gun down runners was on full display Friday night in a game against the Neptune Beach Pearl.
Barbier threw out a pair of runners trying to steal second base in the Blues’ 5-4, 11-inning loss. He also stole a base of his own.
The fourth-year junior is fine-tuning his throwing and his swing this summer with the Blues to make sure his aim is true next season when he crouches behind the plate just a few miles away at Baggett Stadium.
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In five plate appearances with a wood bat Friday, Barbier had two hits, pushing his summer batting average to .342, good for third-best on the team and a spot on the CCL All-Star team. He hit .253 with metal bats this past season for Cal Poly.
“I’m just trying to hit the ball a little better than I did in the spring and strike out less,” Barbier said, “and to throw more runners out and block the ball a little better.”
The numbers reflect his work. He has just one strikeout in 46 plate appearances this summer. During the last month of the season at Cal Poly, he struck out seven times in 49 at-bats.
Barbier’s arm was also the talk of the Pearl dugout Friday night. Maybe it’s because his caught-stealing percentage was 46 percent last season. To put that in perspective, St. Louis Cardinals All-Star catcher Yadier Molina’s career caught-stealing percentage is one point lower.
First-year Blues manager Jamie Clark says it’s not just a strong arm that makes Barbier stand out, but a strong mind as well.
“The thing about Brett is that he’s a very smart catcher,” Clark said. “He’s a huge asset to any pitcher that’s on the mound. He knows the hitters, he knows their tendencies.”
In the same game against the Pearl, he was behind the plate for a combined 18 strikeouts against 48 batters.
The Blues have three catchers on the roster, and Clark rotates each one into the lineup. Barbier would probably see even more playing time if it weren’t for the development aspect of summer baseball.
“There isn’t a day that goes by that I can’t call Brett’s number, number four, and he’s ready to go,” Clark said. “He’s a staple in our lineup.”
But it’s not all business for Barbier, who relishes the chance to play in front of the hometown fans. The redshirt junior talked about the uniqueness of summer baseball heading into one of his last seasons.
“You get to come out here and play with guys from all over the country that you were never going to meet otherwise, which is awesome,” Barbier said. “I feel like (making new friendships) is one of the most important parts.”
In 2016, the Danville native is hoping to become a star for Cal Poly following a mediocre season at the plate this past season. Judging by what he’s been able to accomplish so far this summer, Barbier seems poised for a break-out season with the Mustangs.