Jeremy Barfield’s car was packed for Albuquerque on April 4.
More than three months, two countries and tens of thousands of miles later, the 27-year-old outfielder finally completed his journey from Scottsdale, Ariz., to join the Isotopes this weekend, making Albuquerque the fifth professional team he has played on this season.
Needless to say, his trip was anything but direct.
Barfield, who had a game-tying pinch hit RBI in the seventh inning of Saturday night’s 5-4 Isotopes win over the Las Vegas 51s in front of an announced crowd of 12,880 at Isotopes Park, was released by the Rockies out of spring training after thinking he was Triple-A bound.
“I already had my car packed and my living arrangements set up here in Albuquerque, then they (the Rockies) just didn’t have room,” said the seven-year minor league veteran, who spent his previous six seasons with the Oakland Athletics organization. “That happens all the time. … The farm director (Zach Wilson, senior director of player development) told me, ‘Look, we just don’t have room right now, but we’ll try to make it work (during the season). When there’s an opportunity to sign you back, we’ll do it.’ ”
The speech was probably not unlike many that take place with players coming out of spring training. Barfield – whose father, Jesse, and older brother, Josh, each played in the majors – said he had faith the call would come.
“I had no reason not to believe him,” Barfield said of Wilson. “He’s a man of his word.”
Barfield signed with the Camden (N.J.) Riversharks of the independent Atlantic League, hitting .350 with five home runs in 17 games. But pay isn’t exactly much in independent baseball, so when an offer came with “real good pay” to play with the Quintana Roo Tigers in Cancun, Mexico, Barfield checked in again with the Rockies.
Still no roster spot for him, so off to Mexico he went. Just not for long.
“I go to Mexico for like a week and a half,” Barfield said, “and my manager and hitting coach get fired, and the team started cleaning house, releasing players left and right.”
Five weeks after his Rockies release, Barfield was released for a second time. With Camden holding his rights in the Atlantic League, Barfield asked the team whether it could arrange more affordable housing – “You don’t play independent ball for the money, but I wasn’t about to lose money doing it, either,” he said.
Instead, he was traded to the Atlantic League’s Sugar Land Skeeters, a half hour from his parents home in Houston. After 17 games there, and four more home runs, Barfield was preparing to fly to Long Island, N.Y., for a game when Wilson called.
“He said don’t get on the plane,” Barfield recalled.
The Rockies signed Barfield and sent him to the Double-A New Britain (Conn.) Rock Cats. But while he was hitting the ball hard and playing fine in the outfield, he didn’t exactly light up the stat sheet, hitting .195 with two homers in 26 games. So when the team had seven outfielders last week and he had a voice mail waiting for him after a game from a driving service saying he was being taken to the airport in the morning, he thought he was done.
“I walk over to the trainer and was kind of mad,” Barfield said. “I was telling him, ‘That’s how I get released? A voice mail from a driver?’ ”
Turns out, his manager just hadn’t had a chance to tell him he was headed to Triple-A.
“Every time I get comfortable somewhere, I’m on the move again,” said the good-spirited Barfield. “It’s funny. This is where I was packed up ready to come in April. I’m finally here.”
And after his role in Saturday’s win, the ‘Topes are sure happy he is.