Sports Spectrum Weekly

Years after incredible comeback, Aaron Barrett calls it a career: 'I wouldn't be here without God'

After making one of the most improbable comebacks in recent sports memory, veteran pitcher Aaron Barrett called it a career Monday night.

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Pitching for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Triple-A affiliate of Philadelphia Phillies, Barrett retired the side in order in the first inning, including a strikeout, and walked off the field for the final time as a professional baseball player.

Through a series of tweets, Barrett on Saturday announced his plan to retire following Monday’s game.

“I went into this year thinking this could be my last run. I gave it EVERYTHING I had,” Barrett tweeted. “It didn’t go the way I thought it could. That’s life! It’s time for me to start the next chapter of my life.”

In subsequent tweets, Barrett gave thanks to God for what he was able to accomplish in his career, including overcoming serious injuries and years of rehab to get back on the field.

“I wouldn’t be here first without God in my life,” he tweeted. “He gave me the ability to throw this little ball for a long time. When that was taken away, he showed me that there was more to life than this beautiful game. For that I am grateful for his everlasting love.

“He gave me the perspective I needed. To be present every day no matter what I was doing. To be grateful for what you have.”

After a stellar career at the University of Mississippi, Barrett was drafted by the Washington Nationals in the ninth round of the 2010 MLB Draft. He made his debut in 2014 and was a member of the Nationals playoff roster that season.

However, in 2015, he started experiencing discomfort in his elbow and eventually underwent Tommy John surgery in September. In July 2016, while rehabbing at Washington’s minor-league complex in Florida, Barrett fractured the humerus bone in his right arm while pitching. Witnesses described it as sounding as if a gunshot went off, and teammate Mat Latos was so viscerally disturbed that he reportedly vomited in the dugout.

Barrett had his surgery performed by the famed Dr. James Andrews, who compared the injury to the kind he’d see from a traumatic car accident. Barrett ultimately had two plates and 16 screws embedded to repair his arm.

However, while trying to ramp up a throwing program in order to sign a contract to play during the 2017 season, Barrett went in for a CT scan and discovered that his arm was not healing as quickly as he’d hoped. He opted to shut down his throwing program. Still, the Nationals signed him to a two-year contract while he continued to work out in hopes of a return to baseball.

Barrett finally returned to the mound in 2018 for the first time since his initial surgery, and worked his way up through the minor leagues over the course of the next season, during which he was rewarded with another contract from the Nationals after becoming a free agent.

He performed well with the Harrisburg Senators, the Double-A affiliate of the Nationals, and was finally called back up by the Nationals in September 2019. The moment he got word that he was called up went viral.

“I called my wife. I was bawling. She was crying. It makes me emotional just thinking about it,” Barrett said of the moment in a video with 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.”

Much like his final outing on Monday night, Barrett had a relatively quiet inning in relief in that first game back, which included retiring three straight batters after giving up a walk. One of those outs was a strikeout of All-Star Ronald Acuna Jr.

Barrett was overcome with emotion in that moment.

Though Barrett was left off the Nationals’ playoff roster, he was honored by being asked to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Because he was still a member of the 40-man roster, he is still officially a member of the 2019 World Series championship team. His comeback story is the subject of a forthcoming documentary called “Break Through.”

After spending two more seasons in Washington’s minor-league system, Barrett elected free agency and signed with the Philadelphia Phillies for 2022. During last offseason, he played with the Tigres del Licey of the Dominican Winter League.

Now, he’s content to retire from baseball at age 34 and spend time with his wife, Kendyl, and two children. One of the many players who congratulated Barrett was former No. 1 draft pick Mark Appel, a teammate of Barrett’s in Lehigh Valley who recently made his major league debut after his own arduous battle with injuries.

In his retirement announcement, Barrett also thanked his wife, his parents, his coaches, his teammates and the organizations that gave him a chance.

“It didn’t go as planned but I believe in everything happens for a reason,” Barrett tweeted. “And that is why I am beyond excited for my next chapter in life joining this great organization. Let the fireworks begin!”

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