Roughly 2,000 miles away from Brownsburg in California sit an unlikely paring of two former Bulldogs.
Under a crazy set of circumstances, General Manager Elizabeth Martin (class of 1996) and prospect Tucker Barnhart (class of 2009) are making waves at their respective positions for the high-Class A Bakersfield (Calif.) Blaze, one of the feeder teams for the Cincinnati Reds.
“I was just surprised,” Barnhart said when he learned of the connection. “I didn’t really think that I would come all the way to Bakersfield, Calif., and reconnect with somebody from my hometown.”
Martin got the roster from the Reds before the season, expecting to see a lot of names from California, Florida, and other big baseball states, but ended up shocked.
“I saw Brownsburg, Ind., and I thought ‘There is no way,’” Martin said laughing.
She immediately called home to find out about Barnhart. Since both of her sisters also went through school before his time, Martin asked her father, who had coached tennis at Brownsburg. Barnhart had played tennis for Martin’s father before quitting to focus on baseball.
On one of his first days with the Blaze, Barnhart walked into the team offices to send some mail when Martin called out to him, “I have to tell you something.”
Barnhart said he hesitated before Martin filled him in on the connection.
“It’s a different experience just coming 2,000 miles away from Brownsburg and you run into somebody that knows you and their father has known you since middle school,” Barnhart said.
Martin’s path to becoming a minor league general manager started as early as when she moved to Brownsburg as a junior. Her love of sports served as the guiding factor on her current path. She quickly became the No. 1 singles player for the Bulldogs’ tennis team.
“That is kind of how I bonded with people, being a new kid at 16 in high school is kind of rough,” Martin said.
Martin continued her tennis career at St. Joseph’s College. After five years of working at a sales job in Chicago, she decided to go to DePaul University College of Law with the hopes of becoming a sports agent. When the first day of an internship at the minor league headquarters in St. Petersburg, Fla., went so well, she changed the route she wanted to take.
“It really just happened by dumb luck and accident that I found minor league baseball,” she said. “Once I was in, I was hooked.”
Now serving as the general manager of the Blaze since September 2010, the job is not a typical 9-to-5 profession. On a typical game day, Martin will be at the ballpark from 9 a.m. all the way through midnight — close to a 15-hour day.
“It’s an all day thing for a game day, for sure,” she said. “I could go work in a law firm and probably work close to the same hours, but I have a lot more fun than they do.”
Barnhart and the rest of the Blaze have been having fun this season as well. Bakersfield clinched a playoff spot after finishing with the best record in the first half of the season.
Barnhart said he has high expectations for himself and the team throughout the remainder of the season.
“I just want to continue to play well,” he said. “I feel like I’m playing pretty good right now and keep that carried not only as an individual, but as a team. I’d love to go deep in the playoffs and hopefully win the Cal League.”
Being completely across the country and sharing a hometown connection with someone is quite a coincidence for both Martin and Barnhart. The 5-foot-10 catcher has enjoyed his time in Bakersfield and said he’s impressed by Martin.
“The way that Elizabeth runs this place and the job that they do with the stuff they are given and the facilities is just a fantastic job,” Barnhart said.