Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller once said, "Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday's success or put its failures behind and start over again."
Although Feller demonstrated that philosophy years ago, Oklahoma State's Blake Barnes may just be its next-greatest example.
Barnes, a senior right-handed pitcher from Tyler, Texas, has traveled through a wide range of highs and lows throughout his baseball career. His story chronicles why baseball is such a mental sport, and how balancing the ups and downs can lead to success.
Barnes started his collegiate baseball career at Howard College, a traditional junior college powerhouse known for producing talent. . He immediately made an impact by providing solid relief support out of the bullpen for a team that was making waves in the junior college landscape.
Former Howard teammate and current OSU teammate Rick Stover said Barnes was possibly one of the best pitchers out of the bullpen as a freshman.
"He always had a crazy amount of intensity," Stover said. "I always thought that whoever picked him up would get a work horse who is never satisfied with enough success."
The Hawks went an incredible 63-1 en route to a national championship victory, giving Barnes the experience of success, as well as a soaring draft stock.
Barnes took this experience going into the next year with lofty expectations. He had just won a national championship as a freshman and had given himself a name as a high draft prospect.
Barnes expected great things to come out of his sophomore year.
"I had a lot of hype coming into that season," Barnes said. "Baseball America had me somewhere like a first-rounder in the draft."
"But then, I got injured."
Barnes' most promising season of his career was extremely limited with injuries, and ended up dropping him to the 48th round of the draft. One of the highest points in Barnes' life was spent on the bench with an aching arm and the wonder of what could have been.
Although many players would be gratified with just being drafted, it wasn't enough for Barnes. He made a decision to keep at it and get back to where he once was. He hoped to achieve that same level of success by coming to play at Oklahoma State.
"I definitely didn't like where I was picked in the draft," Barnes said. "I thought I could definitely do a lot more with my career if I came here to OSU and learned more with Coach Anderson."
After a mono infection limited his amount of work, Barnes still didn't have the season that he wanted in his first year with the Cowboys. Things completely out of his control limited Barnes' career for the second year in a row. He put up decent numbers and made the second most appearances on the team, but he still wasn't satisfied.
Despite the setbacks in Barnes' career, he still had his believers. Oklahoma State head coach Frank Anderson noticed an attribute of Barnes' game that put him a step or two above his competition.
Anderson said he always knew Barnes had the ability to get back to where he needed to be.
"He's one of the hardest working kids we got," Anderson said. "He's one of the first guys here and one of the last guys to leave. He's a great teammate, he cares about his teammates and he cares about people."
Anderson saw Barnes' exceptional work ethic and let him run with it. Barnes' offseason between his junior and senior year was filled with hard work and determination to become the pitcher that he knew he could be.
To Barnes' surprise, and just as Anderson expected, the success came.
"It's funny, because I literally didn't change a single thing with my mechanics," Barnes said. "One night, I was just sitting around, and I asked God for things to be better. Sure enough, they changed overnight. It kind of scared me, but that's the only reason I'm here in the first place."
Barnes' senior season has been possibly the most effective of his career.
He has appeared in over half of the Cowboys' conference games this season, compiling 24 strikeouts and an impressive 4-1 record. He leads the Big-12 in conference play with a 0.95 ERA, a mark that professional scouts tend to drool over.
Barnes' role in the bullpen has led the Cowboys to a 13-8 record in conference play, putting them in a tie for second coming into a big series with Texas A&M next weekend.
Although Barnes said his contributions to the team are the most important things on his mind, he still has a future to think about with the draft coming up at the beginning of June.
"The draft is a huge guessing game, and I have no idea where I will end up," Barnes said. "The only thing that helps me get through all the nonsense that surrounds the draft is just knowing that it's all in God's hands. The biggest thing I'm looking forward to is just knowing that I'm going to be able to play this game in the future.
Barnes will most likely go through more successes and failures throughout his baseball career, as playing in college is just the beginning. However, knowing that he has experienced these ups and downs can only be a good thing for Barnes, as he will soon take the next step in his career.
With this experience comes knowledge, as well.
Barnes said he just might have a possible backup plan if baseball doesn't work out.
"I definitely love music," Barnes said. "Songwriting is definitely fun, and I've been in and out of a couple of bands. If I could make money doing that, it would be my next choice in life behind baseball."
"Realistically speaking, I'm not a big name in the country music world though, so I could definitely end up coaching too."