Dad always there to talk baseball with Barney
Father also influential as coach in Cubs second baseman's early years and beyond
PITTSBURGH -- When Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney was 6 years old, he was tagging along with his two older brothers for a Little League game. Darwin's dad, David, was the coach.
A few of the players on the team were on vacation and a couple other kids were sick. David Barney only had eight guys for the game.
"I slipped a uniform on Darwin," David recalled. "He played second base and made a bunch of plays and got some hits. It was a 6-year-old playing with the 12-year-olds. It's one of my favorite pictures I have of them in the same uniform."
David Barney can spot a good ballplayer. It's why he worked with a Major League area scout, watching high school kids in the Beaverton, Ore., area and recommending players.
"He's a really good judge of talent, which also comes into play in our relationship," Darwin -- now the Chicago Cubs' second baseman -- said. "He watches the game and has things to say about it, like any other father-son relationship."
But their father-son conversations are a little more intense when it comes to baseball.
"In high school, even though [Darwin] had an old-time coach, a gruff guy who had been there a million years, I was still coaching my guys," David Barney said. "[The coach] had guys I'd brought up when they were 10. I didn't coach them in the game, but we'd have our own batting practice. I still had input and helped with what was going on."
When Darwin went to Oregon State, David backed off. In 2006, Darwin and Team USA won a gold medal at the World University Games. Darwin and the Beavers reached the College World Series in 2007, and he was the Cubs' fourth-round pick that year in the First-Year Player Draft. When Darwin was in the Minors, David would sneak into the batting cages for a few sessions.
It's tough to be both a dad and a coach.
"I don't always agree with what he says," Darwin said of his father's advice, "but a lot of times, he recognizes where you're at in your career. He also sees a lot of things that I don't see.
"The hardest thing about baseball is it's hard to make an adjustment unless you truly feel it and believe in it. Just hearing something from someone isn't going to make you change what you're doing. We go through conversations. We used to sit down and set goals and talk about our plan and what I'm going to do to get ready for the season. In the end, this game is so individualistic and so mental, that you have to truly believe in what you're doing. He understands that."
And David also recognizes that his son is getting advice from a lot of people.
"We still talk [baseball], but I don't want to be the one bugging him," David said.
When Darwin was 13 years old, he was able to hit balls out of ballparks with ease. That's impressive for someone who doesn't look like a home run hitter at 5-foot-10 and 186 pounds. Former Cubs manager Dale Sveum saw Barney's power potential when the two played golf in Arizona. Darwin might have been a pro golfer if not for baseball.
"Soccer was my first love when I was really young," Darwin said. "I think if I would've stuck with golf, I would've been better at golf. Unfortunately in Oregon, golf is during baseball season, and my friends all played baseball. I think [my dad] had some kind of role in it. As it was getting dark, he wouldn't let me go inside until I caught two fly balls in a row when I was young."
Barney, 28, will do extra work now as long as there is someone who will hit fungoes. It's probably his dad's influence as well.
"In video games [when I was younger], I was getting beat all the time," Darwin said. "I was always the small one in my family. I was traveling around watching their sport stuff. It was a good experience for me. I feel having two daughters, the second one picks up on things a little quicker, and I think that helped a lot in sports in general."
When Darwin started playing in the Minor Leagues, David wasn't able to attend all the games, but he knew his son well enough that he could tell what kind of outs he was making by the sound of the bat on the ball.
This is Darwin's fifth big league season. In the beginning, it was exciting for his parents to travel and see the different ballparks. David usually attended the Cubs' games in San Francisco, but he missed them this year to be home and welcome a new grandchild to the family. Life goes on.
Darwin knows he can always call on his father for advice.
"In baseball, the chances of moving from team to team, or something like that, are pretty high, and you want to have a consistent eye or someone you can consistently talk to who will always be there," Darwin said. "Your dad is the easiest one."
David Barney isn't just Darwin's dad and coach. He's also his dentist, with his own practice in Beaverton.
"Teeth have always been something I've noticed in people and been self conscious about myself," Darwin said. "I wouldn't say him being a dentist means I go more -- I probably go less. But when I do go, it's faster."
Happy Father's Day. And don't forget to floss.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.