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North Johnston High varsity baseball coach Brian Ford left little doubt that if Panthers senior Brandon Barnes performs for his next head coach the way he did for Ford, the dependable Barnes would be a success at the collegiate level.
The recipient of Barnes’ hustle, dedication and talent will be Wake Technical Community College of the National Junior College Athletic Association Region X after Barnes signed with the Eagles during a brief ceremony in the North Johnston media center May 30.
“Very versatile, hard-working,” Ford said, ticking off Barnes’ qualities. “Probably without a doubt one of the top five players to come through here while I’ve been here. The thing about Brandon is that he would do everything you ask and he gives you 100 percent and he’s good at everything.”
Barnes, who played outfield for the Panthers until injuries in the infield moved him to third base, said that he was recruited by the University of Mount Olive of the NCAA Division II ranks but Wake Tech seemed like the place for him.
“They had good academics and the coach (Eric Sibrizzi) just won me over,” he said. “He’s an outstanding guy and I just felt like that was the right choice.”
The son of Lori and Kenny Barnes of Pine Level, Barnes said he plans to major in heath and fitness. Of course, he also hopes that he can continue his career after his two years at Wake Tech are up.
“I hope I can work to be a better baseball player and go D-I,” he said.
Barnes batted .360 (27 for 75) this spring and .377 in two varsity seasons for the Panthers.
“He’s not blessed with the most speed but he’s very smart on the base paths — savvy, gritty and he gets after it,” Ford said of Barnes, whom he called the Panthers’ “quiet leader.” “He’s got a plus arm. He does everything well.”
Barnes was a three-sport starter at North Johnston but now he’s glad to be able to focus on just baseball.
“There’s more focus to it now that I can get down to just that instead of practicing for other sports,” he said.
Ford said that Barnes’ lack of size — he’s 5-foot-9, 170 pounds — probably kept some recruiters away.
“I understand that these recruiters look at size and it’s a shame because this kid’s heart is as tall as anybody who’s ever going to play a professional sport,” the Panthers coach said.
And as far as Ford is concerned, Wake Tech made the right choice.
“He’s the kind of kid who can help any program so Wake Tech is getting a blessing when they get Brandon Barnes,” he said.