Chris Barr, the Miami Hurricanes’ slick-fielding first baseman, loves that his father makes the nearly two-hour drive from West Palm Beach to Coral Gables.
“He comes to every home game, even the weekday ones,” said Barr, a 6-1, 200-pound redshirt junior. “He has a nice [championship] ring that he wears. Hopefully, I can get one of those.”
Jim Barr, a 5-8, 155-pound second baseman in his day, got the ring in 1985 as a college senior. Barr threw to first for the final out of the ’85 season, giving Florida Southern a 15-5 win over Cal Poly Pomona and the NCAA Division II national title.
Florida Southern had finished second in the previous year, and the Barr family sees a correlation there with Miami. The Hurricanes finished sixth at the 2015 College World Series.
The Hurricanes, ranked sixth, hope to learn from their experiences last year, when they lost two games to the Florida Gators — by a combined score of 25-5 — at the CWS in Omaha, Nebraska.
Florida, which will visit the Hurricanes next weekend, is ranked No. 1 and boasts its own West Palm beach standout in sophomore catcher JJ Schwarz, a former Palm Beach Gardens star whose accomplishments are on a different level.
Schwarz hit 16 doubles, three triples, 18 homers and 73 RBI in 70 games last season, earning MVP honors at the SEC Tournament and at the NCAA Gainesville Regional. He was also the Louisville Slugger Co-Freshman of the Year nationally, helping Florida finish third at the CWS.
Barr, a Royal Palm Beach graduate, started 58 games and hit .306 with a .397 on-base percentage and a .403 slugging percentage.
But while Schwarz’s game is all about bashing and mashing, Barr’s value is more nuanced. He led the team with 16 sacrifice hits, he went 14 for 14 on steal attempts and he tied for the team lead with five triples.
This is not the old profile of a first baseman who has power but lacks speed. Instead, Barr can run, hit for average and field.
“He’s way better than I was,” Jim Barr said. “Scouts have told me, ‘Your son is like having a shortstop on the other side of the field, a left-handed shortstop.’ ”
Jim Barr is hoping his son, who has big, strong hands, will start to show his power this season. Chris Barr dislocated his non-throwing shoulder five times as a freshman and ultimately took a redshirt season because of the injury.
That injury kept Barr from fully working the weight room until this past May. But now that he is healthy, the Canes are hoping for more Barr moments like the one he produced last May 23, when his first career homer came in dramatic fashion, tying Notre Dame at the ACC championships. Miami went on to win that game.
Either way, Barr is grateful for his father’s support.
“He’s coached me from the moment I picked up a ball,” Barr said. “My dad is the biggest influence on my baseball career and, really, on my whole life.”
Men’s basketball standout Yunio Barrueta is a quarterfinalist in the NCAA’s “Dark Horse Dunker” competition. Fans can go to www.darkhorsedunker .com to vote. Barrueta is the only dunker from Florida left in the competition.
Four semifinalists will be announced on Wednesday. The winner, which will be announced March 2, will be flown to Houston for the Final Four and will get to dunk against the biggest names in college basketball.