By Jared Brehm | firstname.lastname@example.org
At a home-opening, doubleheader against Trinity Baptist this year, Flagler College Baseball Coach Dave Barnett joined an exclusive club in Division II baseball: 800-career victories.
Since then, the Saints have continued to have a tremendous year and have been ranked in the top 25 in Division II baseball rankings multiple times and currently have a record of 28-10 overall, and are ranked 3rd in the Peach Belt Conference.
A standout season like that hasn’t given Barnett much time to think about what the 800-victory mark has meant to him. While he is quick to explain that it is humbling and gratifying, his main focus is on the state of the team and how players have been the keys to the team’s success and that personal milestone.
“I quite honestly knew that I had 700 and so wins, but in reality it’s a statement to the players because they are the ones that play the game, and really all the good players we have had here through the years are a testament to that,” said Barnett.
While honored by the accomplishment, what’s more important to him is that the team knows they have to continue to play fundamental baseball and stay competitive in order to make the Peach Belt Conference playoffs.
In his 29 years of coaching at Flagler, Barnett has gone through many transitions on and off the field. One of these occurred last year when the Saints added former University of North Florida Head Coach and local baseball figure Dusty Rhodes to the staff. The addition of Rhodes has so far proven to be a great move for the Saints and it is something that Barnett sees as a way to maximize their ability to coach as a staff and teach the players.
“He (Rhodes) has been a nice addition, sometimes I felt like I was the only guy emphasizing these points and there was a time a few years ago that I thought, maybe these guys don’t think I understand the new way to play baseball,” he said. “It’s been refreshing for me to see him come in and say the same things that I have been saying and they are buying into it with both of us.”
Barnett elaborated on the fact that the two have been great friends for years and their relationship goes beyond the baseball diamond. “When he started at UNF we would play each other, and we stayed in contact, and the two of us would pick each others’ brains about certaint things as coaches and I admired how he ran his program. It has just been a good fit here,” said Barnett.
Rhodes being incorporated into the Saints staff has allowed Barnett to have more time to do other things like call pitches, which he has not normally done in the past.
Barnett also explained that the Flagler Athletic Department has grown exponentially over the years he has been here. “It’s amazing how the whole college has evolved from the kind of students it attracts to the buildings. Everything about Flagler has changed, while in those early years we had to be different than we are now. Monetarily speaking, we called our budget a ‘fiscally-prudent management deal’ because there was no money,” he said. “I look at my budget now and its 10 times that much, and it’s hard to believe that, but it really is.”
Barnett said that the growth of the college on and off the field has benefited the players and coaches of all sports. He credited Athletic Director Judd Damon and Flagler College President William T. Abare Jr., and said Abare in particular supported him even through the early years when winning was harder to come by.
Barnett explained that he has tried to instill core values such as the fundamentals of the game, teamwork and discipline into the players he coached. “The structure of the program, as far as ‘here is how we do things’ and ‘this is our system’ and ‘this is the way were going to be a team,’ that’s by far the biggest thing: be a great teammate and embrace the fact that you are representing Flagler and not yourself,” he said.
Barnett went on to say that those players have taught him a lot of lessons to be a better coach and father, as well. “Every player is different and they are all from different backgrounds, so you learn a lot and you have to have an open heart for those players with whatever their situation may be. So you learn to handle that. But I always say I learn to become a better parent by being able to coach college-aged kids, especially when my kids reached that age,” he said.
In regards to how long Barnett will continue to coach at Flagler, he said he had not intention of slowing down anytime soon. “As long as my health holds up and I still have the energy to hang with these guys, I enjoy it and hope to finish my career here and coach for as many years as my health will allow,” he said.