Baarns became consumed with getting ahead. He longed to move up to a Double-A or Triple-A team, one rung below the majors. Anywhere.
The Nashville Sounds had an opening. He didn’t get it. Same for the Pawtucket Red Sox, the Arkansas Travelers and the Albuquerque Isotopes. He was a finalist for an opening with the major league Milwaukee Brewers. The job went to someone else.
He grew melancholy. He was edging toward 30 and wanted to have a family, but he did not have time to date. Grinding through a six-month baseball season, he wrote in a journal, was “like being cryogenically frozen, and then awakening at the end of it to find yourself mostly unchanged …
“While the world you knew has shifted and moved on, leaving you behind.”
By now it was 2015, and the Visalia Rawhide were a semifinalist for the California League championship. Their opponents were the San Jose Giants, the league’s New York Yankees. The fifth and deciding game, at Rawhide Ballpark in Visalia, was packed with roughly 1,000 fans.
“The best game I ever called,” Baarns says. He remembers the 11th inning. The right-handed Visalia pitcher. The sound of the ball against the bat. On the radio, like Scully, Baarns was brief as he described the visiting team’s last, gutting, go-ahead run. “There’s a drive, deep to left field. It is hooking. It is fair and … gone!”
San Jose won, 6 to 5.
That night, when he went home, he sat for hours, frozen in anguish.
His life was at an impasse. “Just grinding, year after year, the season running nearly 180 days in a row, working this insane schedule where I couldn’t really have a social life, wanting so badly to move forward with my career, yet always feeling like I was always the runner-up,” he says. “You get to the point where it’s, ‘Is this just who I am?’ ”
He considered packing up and leaving Visalia. Going to a big city. Maybe he could find work at a sports radio station, hosting a call-in show.