Clint Barmes

This article was written by Kurt Wells

Clint BarmesAfter spending five seasons in the minor leagues, in addition to a late-season call-up in 2004, rookie Clint Barmes was thrilled to be named the Colorado Rockies’ starting shortstop on Opening Day 2005. With the sold-out Coors Field crowd on their feet and the score tied 10-10 in the bottom of the ninth, Barmes launched a Trevor Hoffman first-pitch fastball into the left-field seats for a walk-off two-run homer, capping a four-hit day.

Six weeks later, on May 13, Barmes went 3-for-6, hitting two home runs with five RBIs, raising his batting average back to .400, where it had been hovering since Opening Day. Barmes’ sensational stretch carried into June and was one the best starts to a season any rookie has ever experienced. Although this was one of the major highlights of his 13-year career, teammates, coaches, and managers continuously claim his biggest impact came from the intangible qualities he brought to the ballpark on a daily basis. His legacy in major-league baseball is epitomized by his passion for the game, dedication and hard work, playing the game right, and being an exemplary teammate.

Clint Hurdle, who managed Barmes with the Colorado Rockies and later with the Pittsburgh Pirates, had the ultimate respect for those intangibles and said, “We went our separate ways and were able to reconnect in Pittsburgh. I shared with our GM, Neal Huntington, Clint would be a perfect fit to bring cohesion and collaboration to our club on the field and in the clubhouse. He was an integral part of the Renaissance of Baseball on the North Shore and the Pirates’ return to prominence in major-league baseball.”1

Clint Harold Barmes was born in Vincennes, Indiana, on March 6, 1979, the older of two sons of Barry and Erma Barmes. He was named after his mother’s favorite actor, Clint Eastwood. The Barmes family farmed in Beal, Indiana, outside Vincennes in the southwest corner of the state, until Clint was in the third grade, when the family left the farm and moved into town.2

Clint spent “a lot” of time playing baseball and basketball on the farm with his father. When they moved to town, Barry built a pitcher’s mound in the backyard and Clint spent many hours pitching to his dad. “Dad worked with me all the time,” Clint said. “He was the most impactful person in my life. He coached my teams all the way into high school.” Barry had been a good athlete, having played two years of junior-college baseball and basketball at Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, Illinois.3 Clint also had an uncle, Bruce Barmes, who hit .318 in 1,439 minor-league games and had a cup of coffee with the Washington Senators in 1953.

Clint started playing organized baseball in a machine-pitch league at the age of 7. When he was 12, playing in the Bambino League, his team qualified for the Bambino World Series in Pueblo, Colorado. “It was the first time I was ever on an airplane,” Clint said. He pitched and played shortstop and center field for the team, which finished fourth in the tournament. Clint played in the league from age 9 through 12 and made the all-star team all four years.

Jumping the fence at Lincoln High School to hit in the cage was a regular occurrence for Barmes when the field was closed. Throughout high school, he excelled at the plate, in the field as a center fielder and shortstop, and as a pitcher. During an intrasquad scrimmage in college, after walking four straight batters, his coach walked to the mound and advised, “Why don’t you stick with playing the field?” Thus, his pitching career came to an abrupt end.

Barmes also starred on the basketball court. A friend of his had a basketball court in his backyard, where they spent a lot of time honing their skills. “Being from Indiana, basketball was the big sport,” Clint said, “but even though I loved both sports, baseball was actually my number one love.” At Lincoln High School, Barmes made the varsity as a sophomore shooting guard. In the state tournament, his team made the round of 16 in both his junior and senior years.4

After high school, Barmes attended Olney (Illinois) Central College, a junior college 32 miles from Vincennes, on basketball and baseball scholarships. He played both basketball and baseball during his first year, but in his second year Barmes elected to focus solely on baseball and quit the basketball team.5

Playing mostly in left field as a freshman and at shortstop as a sophomore,6 Barmes finished his two-year junior-college career with a .426 batting average, boosted by a .445 sophomore season.7 He graduated from Olney holding eight offensive records8 and as of 2018 still had the single-season record of 105 hits and 81 runs scored in 1999, along with career marks for hits with 172 and triples with 14.9 After his second season he was named a junior-college All-American.10 According to Olney’s baseball coach, Dennis Conley, Barmes had a 35-game hit streak, went hitless in one game, then hit in another 17 straight. “Not only was he the best player, but he was also the best teammate and the hardest worker,” Conley said. “When you wrap that all up you get a pretty special player and person. I have always said if he didn’t go into baseball he would have been very successful at anything he did and that is a direct result of his upbringing.”11

 Barmes had a similar respect for coach Conley, praising him for the major influence he had on his career. “I learned more about how to play the game during those two years from him than any other time up to that point,” Barmes said.

Barmes’ record at Olney earned him a scholarship to Indiana State in the Missouri Valley Conference, where in 2000 he batted.375 with 10 home runs and struck out only eight times in 248 at-bats. He tied the Indiana State record by hitting in 30 consecutive games.12 Barmes commented, “The-30 game hitting streak at Indiana State got me drafted.”13

Barmes, a right-handed batter and thrower, was selected after his junior year at Indiana State in the 10th round on June 5, 2000, by the Colorado Rockies. He signed four days later, receiving a $45,000 signing bonus. He used the majority of his bonus to purchase a 1999 Chevy pickup.14

The 21-year-old shortstop was sent to the Portland Rockies, in the short-season rookie Northwest League. Barmey, as teammates and fans called him throughout his career, and two other players shared a studio apartment and slept on air mattresses. The three lived in this modest arrangement until Barmes was called up to Asheville in the low Class-A South Atlantic League later in the season. He got a base hit in his first professional game, in Boise, Idaho.15

Barmes returned to Asheville for the 2001 season. He broke the hamate bone in his hand and missed three weeks of spring training and the first three weeks of the season, before settling in to the starting shortstop position. After 74 games with the Tourists, he was promoted to Salem of the high-A Carolina League.16 For the two teams, Barmes hit a modest .256, but had only 57 strikeouts in 457 plate appearances. That season, Barmes played with a very tight-knit group of teammates he would eventually spend a major part of his big-league career with as members of the Rockies, including Matt Holliday, Garrett Atkins, Aaron Cook, Brad Hawpe, Cory Sullivan, and Jason Young.17

Promoted again in 2002, Barmes played ball for the Carolina Mudcats (Raleigh, North Carolina). He batted .272 and led the team with 15 home runs despite missing three weeks with a broken hand after getting hit by a pitch.18 He was named to the Southern League postseason all-star team. After the season he played for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League. During the winter he was named to the Rockies’ 40-man roster for the first time.

The 2003 season brought another promotion, to the Triple-A Colorado Springs Sky Sox. Barmes hit .276 and led the league in doubles with 35. At the end of the season he got his first major-league call-up. When he arrived at his locker, uniform number 12 was awaiting and that stuck with him throughout his career, other than in 2007, when Steve Finley took number 12 and Barmes flipped to 21. On September 5, in the second at-bat of his first major-league game, he got a hit in front of the home crowd at Coors Field in Denver.19 Barmes recalled it: “a single up the middle off (Kazuhisa) Ishii of the Dodgers.”

The 6-foot-1 Barmes, with clean-shaven head, reported to spring training each year at about 215 pounds and came home at the end of the season around 200. His typical playing weight was 205. Reporting to spring training in 2004, he had his first hopes of sticking with the big-league club.20 Despite a good spring, he began the 2004 season in Triple-A with the Sky Sox and had a fine season, hitting .328 with 16 homers and leading the league with 175 hits. He was named to the Pacific Coast League’s postseason all-star team. His achievements over the two years in Colorado Springs earned him the nod for starting shortstop on the Sky Sox team of the decade announced in 2010.21

In August, Barmey was again called up to the Rockies. In his second game after being recalled, he hit his first major-league home run, off the Florida Marlins’ Carl Pavano in Miami. One important learning experience that came out of his month with the big club resulted from splitting time with Royce Clayton, who taught him life lessons he would pass on in future years about positively affecting the career of a person in direct competition for his position. “He taught me a lot of things and took me under his wing. He’s a great guy that I’ve always respected,” Barmes said.

After spring training in 2005, Barmes was the Opening Day shortstop. For Barmes, spring training was productive in more ways than one. On St. Patrick’s Day in Tucson, his manager while with the Carolina Mudcats, PJ Carey, and his wife, Katherine, introduced Barmes to the woman he would marry, Summer Dennison. Summer was from Platteville, Colorado, and had played college softball at Lamar Community College, finishing her degree at the University of Northern Colorado.22

Hitting a walk-off home run off Trevor Hoffman on 2005’s Opening Day made Barmes an instant fan favorite in Denver. “I remember running the bases thinking this can’t be real,” he said. “The next game I was still on cloud nine, but the game slowed down for me after the home run.”23 Barmes finished April hitting .410 with 4 home runs and 14 RBIs and was named the National League Rookie of the Month.24 He was only the third rookie to hit .400 in April with a qualifying amount of plate appearances. By mid-May, Barmes was still leading the major leagues in batting.25

By June, Barmes was not only the front-runner for Rookie of the Year, but was being mentioned as a leading candidate to make the All-Star team. Then the magical start to the season came to a crashing halt on Sunday, June 5, when he had a freak accident, falling while climbing the stairs to his apartment. He broke his collarbone on the fall, which garnered national attention because he was carrying deer meat that teammate Todd Helton had given him after Barmes had spent time on Helton’s ranch riding an ATV.26

The injury placed Barmes on the disabled list until September 2. His batting average at the time of the injury was .327, with 8 home runs and 34 RBIs. After the injury, Barmes said, his swing was affected for the remainder of his career. Before the injury, he would swing and release the bat with his right hand, finishing his swing with the left hand elevated. Afterward he was unable to repeat his swing and his follow-through included both hands on the bat.27

Barmes still finished the season with a respectable .289 batting average, 10 homers, 46 RBIs, and only one strikeout per 10.5 plate appearances. He finished eighth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting.  Clint Hurdle remembers the start Barmes had in ’05. “We started our journey together in Colorado where I witnessed him have one of the best starts ever for a rookie.”28

After the season, Barmes played winter ball in the Dominican Republic.29 He was the first American everyday shortstop to play in the Dominican. This experience had a major impact on improving his defense. He watched the players’ footwork and started playing with quicker hands. It was also a great opportunity for him to gain an appreciation of what the foreign players experience when they come to the United States to play ball. “It was good being in a different country and seeing what they go through when they come to the States,” he said. “The Dominicans took me in and accepted me. I remember what that felt like and I wanted to make sure I treated them the same.”

Barmes started for the Rockies at shortstop for most of the 2006 season, recalling that “I spent most of the year trying to reinvent my swing, but it was my best defensive year up to that point.” He finished second in the NL among all positions with a 3.2 defensive WAR, but he batted only .220 with seven home runs. Always a good bunter, Barmes finished second in the NL with 19 sacrifices. He also led the National League by hitting into only two double plays, the lowest rate in the league.

After the season, Clint and Summer were married in Maui on December 12 (12/12/06), a planned tribute to Barmes’s uniform number 12. They made Denver their home that winter and remained Colorado residents as of 2018.30

The emergence of Troy Tulowitzki as the Rockies’ new shortstop phenom in 2007 forced Barmes to start the year in Colorado Springs. He was moved up and down between Denver and Colorado Springs three times that year, sticking with the Rockies after his August 29 call-up, allowing him the opportunity to be part of the Rockies’ remarkable run for the pennant that became known as Rocktober.

September 18, 2007, was one of the most historic days in Rockies history. In the bottom of the ninth inning of the second game of a doubleheader, with two outs and two strikes, Todd Helton hit a walk-off home run off Dodgers closer Takashi Saito to keep the Rockies in the pennant race. On that same day, Clint and Summer had their first child, a son they named Wyatt. “I remember watching the game from the hospital and holding Wyatt,” Clint said. The day before, the Rockies had started a streak of winning 21 of 22 games, catapulting them to their first appearance in the World Series, in which they were swept by the Boston Red Sox.

Barmes had a good year at Colorado Springs and was hit by a pitch 22 times, which was another intangible part of his game that he excelled at throughout the years. “I always liked the ball inside so I’d crowd the plate, so I’d get hit a lot. I was willing to take the hit by pitch,” Barmes said. He played in only 27 games for the Rockies that year, but played in the Triple-A all-star game. Although Barmes suited up and took batting practice throughout the playoffs and World Series, he was not activated.

Barmes broke camp with the Rockies in 2008 as a utility player, with Jayson Nix named as the starting second baseman. However, with Nix slumping, three weeks into the season Barmes took over the starting role at second base and remained there the rest of the season. He had a good season at the plate (.290, a career-high .790 OPS), but he also teamed with Tulowitzki to create a formidable double-play combo.

Barmes was the Rockies’ everyday second baseman in 2009, playing in 154 games. That season he switched from a 33-30 bat to a 34-inch bat31 and established career highs with 23 home runs, 32 doubles and 76 RBIs. However, his batting average dropped to .245 and he struck out 121 times, the most in his career. He tried at times later in his career to go back to the 33-inch bat he had always used before but was never comfortable with it again.32

The Rockies made the playoffs that season and Barmes had the opportunity to play in his first postseason games. He was hitless in four games as the Rockies lost the Division Series to the Phillies.

After his back-to-back solid seasons, the Rockies signed Barmes to a one-year, $3.325 million contract for 2010. He opened the season starting at second base, but Troy Tulowitzki injured his wrist and Barmes played shortstop during his extended absence. When Tulowitzki returned, Barmes moved back to second. After he went through a slump in August, Eric Young Jr. replaced Barmes as the starting second baseman to finish out the season. Even when not in the starting lineup, he was typically inserted for defensive purposes late in games. Barmes finished the season with a.235 batting average and 8 homers.

It had been a tough year: Barmes learned on June 15 that his father, Barry, had stage-four cancer.33 Jim Tracy and the Rockies organization were understanding and allowed several breaks from the Rockies during the season to visit his father.34 Three days after the end of the regular season, on October 6, Clint and Summer had a baby daughter, Whitney. Seven days later, on October 13, the day of Barry’s 56th birthday, Barry died of lung cancer.35

On November 18, 2010, Barmes was traded to the Houston Astros for Felipe Paulino. The Astros signed him for $3,925,000, another one-year contract. Late in spring training, Barmes broke his left hand when he was hit by a pitch from Ivan Nova of the Yankees.36 The injury forced him to miss the first month of the 2011 season, but upon his return, Barmes took over the starting shortstop position for the remainder of the year. He hit .244 with 12 home runs and was solid in the field. For the second time in his career, Barmes finished second in the National League in defensive WAR for all positions. He enjoyed his season with the Astros. “I loved Houston,” he recalls. “The fans and people were great.”

After the season, Clint had his first opportunity to test free agency. The Pittsburgh Pirates, now managed by Clint Hurdle, Barmes’ manager in Colorado from 2003 to 2009, signed him to a two-year, $10.5 million contract, based on Hurdle’s recommendation.37 He started at shortstop for the Pirates in 2012 and played solid defense. In 144 games, he hit .229. His eight home runs included his first career grand slam, against San Diego.

Barmes started the 2013 season as the everyday shortstop in 2013. By midseason he was splitting time with Jordy Mercer. “I loved working with Jordy,” Barmes said. It reminded me of when I came up and had Royce Clayton working with me. I said to myself at that time, ‘This is exactly how I’m going to treat whoever comes up behind me. Jordy and I ended up having a great relationship.’” The Pirates made it to the playoffs as a wild-card team and lost in five games to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS. Barmes played in all six games of the wild card and NLDS and went 3-for-11.

When Barmes first came to the majors, the Rockies gave him Kenny Chesney’s “Back Where I Come From” as his walkup song, which he kept for a few years. In 2013 he changed his song to “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey, which was his favorite band. His wedding song had been “Faithfully,” by Journey. The song was a hit with the players and fans and became the signature song of the Pirates. When Barmes approached the plate, fans sang along. Barmes also shared another memory, “The team would sing the song as they were landing the plane returning home from a road trip.”38

Barmes was a free agent at the end of the season and re-signed with the Pirates for 2014, a one-year $2 million deal. He understood that his role was to back up Mercer; he seized the opportunity and spent a great deal of time mentoring him on playing shortstop.39 Barmes spent the first half of the 2014 season as the backup shortstop, but pulled his groin just before the All-Star break and played in only seven games after returning late in the season. “I loved Pittsburgh,” he said. “It was a fun environment. The teams were awesome and the fans came out and supported us. I remember how much fun it was to compete there. Everyone was there to win.”40

Just before 2015 spring training, Barmes signed with the San Diego Padres. At age 36, he was still a valuable commodity for teams looking for a good glove in the infield, a strong clubhouse presence, and a good role model for the younger players. By now he had developed a reputation as one of the game’s hardest workers. “I was always early to the field. I’m a big routine guy and wanted to be as ready as I could be,” he said. That season he was hitting .282 at the All-Star break and maintained an average above .250 until an 0-for-15 slump at the end of the season dropped his average to .232.

Barmes liked playing for Bud Black, but the Padres manager was fired a couple of months into the season. Cameron Maybin, who was the Asheville Tourists’ batboy when Barmes played there, was a teammate during spring training, but was traded to the Atlanta Braves before Opening Day.41

A highlight of the season with the Padres came in Barmes’ return to Pittsburgh. On July 7, as he approached the plate, the Pirates exhibited the paramount respect to an opposing player by playing his old walkup song, “Don’t Stop Believing,” a tribute that seldom occurs for the visiting team. The Pittsburgh fans gave him a standing ovation and he responded with a 2-for-4 day.42

Going into the 2016 season, Barmes signed a minor-league contract with the Kansas City Royals. “I had a solid spring and felt like I could help the club,” he said, but he didn’t make the Royals’ roster. Clint played for a while before his body told him he was done.43 He announced his retirement from baseball on May 23, 2016.44 Through exceptional work ethic, dedication, and commitment, being a team player and a great teammate, the small-town kid who struggled to get a baseball scholarship out of high school had achieved 10 years and 122 days of major-league service time.

Barmes finished his career with 89 home runs and a .245 batting average. Asked who the toughest pitcher he faced was, without hesitation he responded, “Brandon Webb’s sinker. At one point I was something like 1-for-15 against him. The one hit was a broken-bat single to shortstop that I beat out.”

As for the pitchers Barmes had the most success against: “I actually had a lot of success against Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. I also had some of my best stats against Paul Maholm and Noah Lowry.” A deeper look into his stats revealed some lofty numbers against a number of pitchers, including Odalis Perez (.556), Maholm (.417), and Greinke (.368).

Barmes spent his entire career in the National League, but put up some of his best stats facing American League pitching. He had a career OPS of over .900 against five AL teams. The only other team he had an OPS in excess of .900 against was his former Colorado Rockies team. “I always got excited to play against my old teammates and coaches and to play in front of my friends,” Barmes said. “I always felt comfortable at Coors Field. That was always home to me.”

In retirement, Barmes remained a part of the Colorado Rockies family. He was chosen to announce the 2017 Rockies amateur draft picks in New Jersey and was part of a 2017 Rockies 25-year reunion over a three-day weekend in September.

Clint Hurdle, reflecting on the years he managed Barmes, said: “I watched him play a game that he loved and share that love with others to make them better. I watched him grow up, fall in love and get married. I watched Clint and Summer become parents. I am proud of him and happy for him. He made me better.”45

As of 2018 Barmes and his family lived in Mead, Colorado. Taking a page from his father’s book, he enjoyed coaching his children in sports.

Last revised: March 1, 2018

 

This biography originally appeared in "Major League Baseball A Mile High: The First Quarter Century of the Colorado Rockies" (SABR, 2018), edited by Bill Nowlin and Paul T. Parker.

 

Sources

In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author consulted Barmes' Hall of Fame player file, Baseball-Reference.com, ESPN.com’s game-by-game stats, Baseballamerica.com, the baseballcube.com, rotowire.com, and the Colorado Rockies official website for statistical data, as well as Foxsports.com for historical transactions.

 

Notes

1 Clint Hurdle, email correspondence with author, May 8, 2017.

2 Clint Barmes, interview with author, March 8, 2017.

3 Ibid. All quotations attributed to Barmes are from this March 8 interview unless otherwise noted.

4 Barmes Interview.

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.

7 Official Home of the Olney Central College Blue Knights Baseball Record Book: olneycentralathletics.com/sports/bsb/records.

8 Dennis Conley, telephone interview with author, July 29, 2017.

9 Craig Pearson, “From Terre Haute to the Majors: Former Sycamore Clint Barmes Calls It a Career,” Terre Haute Tribune-Star, May 28, 2016.

10 Official Home of the Olney Central College Blue Knights Baseball Notable Knights: olneycentralathletics.com/sports/bsb/pictures.

11 Conley interview.

12 Pearson.

13 Barmes interview.

14 Barmes interview.

15 Ibid.

16 Ibid.

17 Ibid.

18 Ibid.

19 “Deals and Newcomers, Clint Barmes, SS,” USA Today Baseball Weekly, October 1-7, 2003: 57.  

20 Barmes interview.

21 “Clint Barmes Named Starting Shortstop to Colorado Springs' Team of the Decade,” May 10, 2010, https://milb.com/milb/news/clint-barmes-named-starting-shortstop-to-colo....

22 Barmes interview.

23 Ibid.

24 Thomas Harding, “Barmes Is NL’s Top Rookie,” Colorado Rockies Official Site, May 2, 2005. https://m.rockies.mlb.com/news/article/1036172//

25 Vicki Michaelis, “Rockies Rookie Barmes Hitting It Off,” USA Today, May 12, 2005.

26 Tracy Ringolsby, “It’s a Different Story About Barmes’ Fall,” Rocky Mountain News (Denver), June 10, 2005. 

27 Barmes interview.

28 Hurdle email correspondence.

29 “5 Colorado Rockies, Escaping the Cellar Will Depend on a Young Team's Rate of Maturity,” Sports Illustrated, April 3, 2006.  si.com/vault/2006/04/03/8373971/5-colorado-rockies#.

30 Barmes interview.

31 Ibid.

32 Ibid.

33 Troy Renck, “Rockies’ Barmes Carries Burden for Cancer-Stricken Father,” Denver Post, August 31, 2010. 

34 Barmes interview.

35 Brian McTaggart, “Barmes finds Peace Thanks to Dad's Strength,” https://m.astros.mlb.com/news/article/20485970//, June 15, 2011.

36 “Astros Barmes Breaks Left Hand,” Toronto Sun, March 26, 2011.

37 Hurdle email correspondence.

38 Barmes interview.

39 Adam Berry, “Mentoring Newman, Mercer Pays It Forward/Veteran's Tutelage Can Be Traced Through Long Chain of Shortstops,” MLB.com, February 24, 2017. https://mlb.com/news/article/216924114/jordy-mercer-mentoring-prospect-k....

40 Barmes interview.

41 Ibid.

42 Marty Leap, “Former Pirate Shortstop Clint Barmes Announced His Retirement After 13 Major League Seasons Yesterday,” May 24, 2016, https://rumbunter.com/2016/05/24/paying-homage-to-clint-barmes/.

43 Barmes interview.

44 Charlie Wilmouth, “Former Pirate Clint Barmes Retires,” May 24, 2016,  bucsdugout.com/2016/5/24/11758684/clint-barmes-retires.

45 Hurdle email correspondence.