Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Nationals pitcher Aaron Barrett credits 'faith in the Lord' after 4-year battle to get back to big leagues

Saturday’s 5-4 win for the Atlanta Braves over the Washington Nationals in Atlanta may have seemed like any other September baseball game between two NL East foes.

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For Aaron Barrett, however, it was a night he will never forget.

Barrett, 31, entered the game in the fifth inning as a relief pitcher for the Nationals — the first time since Aug. 5, 2015, that Barrett set foot on the mound during an MLB game. Barrett walked his first batter then retired the next three. One of them happened to be a three-pitch strikeout of Braves All-Star Ronald Acuna Jr.

Upon his return to the dugout, Barrett broke down in tears as the emotions from four long, painful, uncertain seasons out of the majors came welling up.

Barrett made his big-league debut for the Nationals in 2014 and quickly established himself as a reliable reliever. Yet in 2015, Barrett developed discomfort in his pitching elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery in September.

The next season, while Barrett was still rehabbing at Washington’s minor league complex in Florida, he suffered a gruesome fracture to his right pitching arm that required two plates and 16 screws to put back together. The injury healed more slowly than Barrett had expected, and he missed all of the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

Despite it all, the Nationals organization gave Barrett another opportunity in 2018 with its minor-league affiliates. Barrett finally returned to the mound  in 2018 for the first time since his initial surgery, and worked his way up through the minors as his pitching abilities gradually returned.

The Nationals took notice, and last week gave Barrett the call he had dreamt of for four years.

“I called my wife. I was bawling. She was crying. It makes me emotional just thinking about it,” Barrett said in a video on NBC Sports Washington. “[Reaching the major leagues again] has been my goal since day one, and now I’m here. Now I have a job to do. I was in a dark place for a long time. Like I said in other articles, I questioned, ‘why me?’ for a long time. God has put it in great perspective for me, and I think I’ve been given this platform to show that you can do anything if you believe in Him and just continue to move forward no matter what.”

Barrett has often credited Christ with giving him the strength to fight his way back to the majors.

“My faith in the Lord has helped me to push through just to continue to take this one day at a time,” Barrett said in a video published by masn Nationals.

Barrett was brought in for Washington’s final playoff push. As of Monday morning, the Nationals are nine games back of the Braves in the division with 20 games remaining, including a three-game homestand against Atlanta this Friday-Sunday. But Washington sits in position to reach the playoffs as the first NL wildcard team, holding a three-game lead over the Cubs.

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