Joe Barnes is something of a celebrity around Old Mill High School.
He has met President Clinton and had his photo taken with the president last June in Pine Bluff, Ark., hit a home run during a game televised by ESPN, and been featured in national baseball publications.
All this attention hasn't changed the way Barnes approaches baseball and life every day.
"I practice hard and everything seems to fall into place for me on the baseball field," he said. "Right now I'm concentrating on boosting my average over .450, and I hope somebody drafts me. Off the field, I try to keep up with my studies and I like to play basketball and spend time with my girlfriend."
If Barnes isn't drafted by a major league team, he will take the full baseball scholarship he has been offered to attend national junior college power Indian River (Fla.) Community College.
Old Mill coach Mel Montgomery, who doubles as a scout for the Brewers, said there is a lot of interest professionally in Barnes because he has "first-step quickness."
"He can beat people to the base and to the ball," said Montgomery. "He has always worked hard and has a desire to go out and get better. He hits the ball so hard that he could hurt somebody when they play the infield up on him with runners on second and third."
Barnes said Montgomery "tells me I have the quickest first step of anybody he has seen. He says there are people faster but I'm quicker with the first step."
In the outfield, Barnes is a natural and has astounded opposing coaches, players and Montgomery with some of the plays he has made.
In a game at Glen Burnie this spring, Barnes raced far back into center field, stuck out his glove at the last split-second and made an unbelievable catch while nearly falling down.
The Glen Burnie third base coach didn't think there was any way Barnes would be able to hold on to the ball and told his runners to go.
"He thought I dropped the ball," said Barnes. "There was nothing but wide-open spaces and puddles of water out there. I barely got my glove on the ball, but I made the catch."
Montgomery believes his Old Mill star made an even better play last year against Glen Burnie on a very dry field.
"There was a ball hit in front of him and it bounced high into the air, since the ground was so hard, and looked like it would go over his head," said the coach. "But Joe leaped way up to get it and turned his body in the air while coming down so that he was in position to make a throw the moment he hit the ground, and he cut down a big run at home plate."
As a hitter and on the basepaths, Barnes has the stats to show just how much he means to third-ranked Old Mill.
Through the first 14 games of the season for the 13-1 Patriots, Barnes hit .425, had 15 RBIs, five doubles, one triple, 11 stolen bases and scored 21 runs.
Now just how did he meet the president and get to play on ESPN? Both events came as a result of Barnes being chosen to play in the National Amateur Baseball Federation All-Star Game in Pine Bluff, Ark., last June, a game that was televised by ESPN and attended by President Clinton, who threw out the first ball.
"The president came down to the field and shook everybody's hand who was playing in the game," said Barnes. "They took a photo of me meeting the president and they were supposed to send me one, but I'm still waiting for it. It was great to meet the president and have him in the stands when I hit a home run in the game. I never thought I would ever meet the president of the United States."
Pub Date: 4/28/96