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Old Mills' Barnes is turning heads -- quickly -- with his speed


There are no red lights when Old Mill's Joe Barnes is on the base paths. Because of his speed, Barnes has been given the green light by coach Mel Montgomery.

Few high school baseball players can run the bases as fast as Barnes can. Wednesday at practice, his teammates and coaches were amazed.

"Everybody just looked at each other and couldn't believe it as he accelerated as he hit the corner of each base," said Montgomery. "He did it in 14.1 seconds and nobody else was close."

Not pleased with the times of his No. 8 Patriots going from the batter's box to first base in Tuesday's 5-3 season-opening win at Chesapeake, Montgomery clocked his players to first in practice.

"The times were better because they weren't looking at the ball in the drill at practice as they were in the game," said Montgomery. "Joe ran to first once in 3.8 and then we had them run around the bases, home to home, and Joe put on a show."

It's that speed -- and a quick bat, great arm and natural instincts -- that makes the 5-foot-11 and 165-pound junior one of the top outfielders in the Baltimore metro area.

Barnes got the attention of scouts at the National Amateur Baseball Federation 18 and Under World Series in Marietta, Ga., last summer and earned a spot on the NABF All-Star Team that will play in the National All-Star Baseball Tournament in Evansville, Ind., June 20-26.

"I was surprised I was picked and am really excited about being on TV [on ESPN], can't wait," said Barnes, who was second-team All-County in basketball but has been contacted by James Madison, East Tennessee State and New Mexico State for baseball.

"It's my goal to play pro ball."

NABF official Lou Tiberi of Dublin, Ohio watched Barnes go 4-for-6 (.667) with a couple of stolen bases and six putouts in center field in the first two games for Gunther's in the World Series.

Barnes went to Marietta with a reputation after going 8-for-14 (.571) in the NABF East Regional in Altoona, Pa., and hitting .308 in nine games in Cleveland, Ohio, at the Continental Amateur Baseball Association High School Eligible World Series.

"We loved his speed and bat," said Tiberi.

Montgomery said he was not surprised that Barnes was selected for the game that features 120 of the nation's finest amateur players.

"Joe's an exciting player with a lot of potential," said Montgomery, who in his 17 years rarely has given a player the green light to steal bases. "I told Joe whenever the opportunity is there to take it."

Opportunity is something Barnes had to earn last season as a sophomore and he had some frustrating moments that he said "made me play harder because I had to beat Chuck [Manns] out."

He has literally gone from bottom to the top as a No. 9 hitter to the Pats' leadoff man this season. Manns, another gifted athlete, starts in left and bats second to give Montgomery an outfield duo reminiscent of one he had 15 years ago.

"Joe hits the ball hard, and has the ability to start a game with a hit or by getting on base, and that really gets a team going," said Montgomery, who had two All-Metro outfielders in 1981 in Tyrone Queen and Craig Dorsey who were faster than Barnes.

"There is no doubt in my mind that Dorsey and Queen would beat Joe in the 60 [Joe runs the 60-yard -- in 6.7 seconds], but nobody has ever had the first-step quickness that Joe has."

Barnes was in and out of the Patriot lineup as a DH or outfielder, batting .315 (17-for-54) with 12 stolen bases, 16 runs scored, seven RBIs and two each in homers, triples and doubles.

For Gunther's, he batted .404 ( 74-for-183) with team-leading totals of 56 runs scored, 30 stolen bases and 17 doubles. Barnes also belted four homers and two triples from his leadoff spot.

"His power doesn't surprise me because guys with quick hands make it [the ball] go," said Montgomery, who said he is also pleased with Barnes' defense.

"Joe has learned to use his speed correctly. Last year, he would start late and then run hard to catch the ball. Now he gets off quick and stops to catch the ball rather than on the run. He caught a fly ball the other day and somebody said, 'Where did he come from?' "

Somebody is bound to ask that question again.

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