Family affair: Son, father coaching together at Skyline
FRONT ROYAL — When the opportunity to coach with his son came up Butch Barnes didn’t hesitate.
Baseball has always been a big part of the Barnes’ family, and Barnes was more than happy to help out his son Jay Barnes.
Jay Barnes is the Skyline High School baseball head coach, and his dad is one of his assistant coaches this season.
“I’ll be honest, I guess I had thought about it as it just gives us time to spend time together,” Butch Barnes said. “As he gets older and his family’s growing, and of course his younger brother’s doing things with his family, it just gives us time to spend together. It’s a no-brainer for me. I get to spend a couple hours a day with my oldest son, and we have a good relationship. We’ve been involved in baseball together forever.”
Last fall, Jay Barnes was looking for an assistant coach to help out this season. He said he decided to ask his dad, who has been a long-time coach at many levels for many years.
Jay Barnes said it’s really not that much different than in the past, except his father is now at practices too.
“The difference between now and when I first started coaching is now he just comes to practice,” Jay Barnes said. “He came to all the games anyway to watch, so he was there. Now he just comes to practice too.”
They said they’ve been together in baseball for about 25 years, since Jay Barnes was 5. Butch Barnes coached Jay Barnes and his younger brother, Nick Barnes, off and on all the way through the years.
Whether it was Little League, American Legion, travel teams, elite teams, Rockingham County Baseball League and even the Valley Baseball League, Butch Barnes has always been the head coach for them. But this season at Skyline the tables have turned and it is Jay Barnes who is the head coach.
“It’s fun being in my shoes now,” Butch Barnes said with a laugh. “Every role we’ve had ’til this it’s been my head on the line. Now I’m just the assistant. I do what I’m told.”
Butch Barnes works with the pitchers at Skyline, and also stays in the dugout when the Hawks are on the field and works with the players.
“My big thing even with the summer league team is to talk about the mental aspect of the game, try to get better mentally. That’s kind of what I’m bringing to this,” Butch Barnes said. “I’ll sit in there and talk about what the pitcher’s throwing, getting our guys to communicate in the dugout. Just to have a voice in the dugout. Just to have discussions about baseball while were playing baseball.”
Jay Barnes said sometimes it’s just good for the players to hear a different voice.
“The kids get tired of me,” Jay Barnes said. “It’s kind of like Charlie Brown. You start sounding like the teacher from Charlie Brown after a while. … You hear the same thing over and over again. If you hear it from a different voice, maybe they say it a different way, maybe it will sink in. That’s all we’re looking for is just a different point of view.”
Butch Barnes coached high school baseball for years at Osbourn High School in Manassas, and said he also coached softball for a few years as well.
He also was the first manager ever for the Strasburg Express. Butch Barnes managed the VBL team for three years, before stepping down to take the role of vice president of baseball operations for the 2014 season.
During his three seasons as manager, he coached Nick Barnes in the first season and coached with both Nick and Jay Barnes during the final of his three seasons. Jay Barnes was an assistant coach for his father for 2 ½ of the three seasons.
Jay Barnes graduated from Strasburg High School in 2003 and from Wingate University in 2007, while Nick Barnes graduated from Strasburg in 2007 and from the University of Charleston in 2012.
Jay Barnes said his dad was obviously a big influence on him in many ways, including his coaching. Jay Barnes said he can remember being around the Osbourn baseball team when he was younger, and that has helped him through the years.
“I got exposed to a lot of things at a young age and it helped being in the team environment. Being around that and seeing him and how he dealt with the kids and things like that has helped,” Jay Barnes said. “Coaching under him a little bit as an assistant helped me learn how to deal with different aspects of things.”
The two are still learning from each other. Jay Barnes said he asks his father for advice all the time for the Hawks this season, and Butch Barnes said he’s learning from his son as well.
The Hawks lost four games in a row after winning their opening game this season. After their fourth straight loss, Jay Barnes decided that instead of having a normal practice he would try something different. He had the team play wiffle ball. The Hawks won four consecutive games after that.
“I was sitting there and I watched our guys. …We competed harder at that wiffle ball game than we were competing when we went to play a baseball game, and it was against ourselves,” Butch Barnes said. “That is the one moment that I think it turned our season around. I’ll be honest, I’d of never thought of that.”
Butch Barnes, who is planning on helping coach the Strasburg Express this summer when manager Charlie Hayes is out of town, said he’s enjoyed getting back into coaching after being out of it for a few years.
“It’s been fun. I’ve enjoyed this year probably more than any just because it’s relaxed,” Butch Barnes said. “He’s doing a good job of what he’s doing and it makes me proud.”
Butch Barnes said that Jay Barnes isn’t following in his footsteps, he’s just creating his own path.
“He’s got his own path and he’s going his way and I’m proud of him, and now I’m proud to be a part of it,” Butch Barnes said. “It’s like that commercial. Price of the ticket to the game is this. I’ve come and watched them play, price of gas getting there is this. But coaching with him is truly priceless.”
Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org