There are few things I love more than baseball: My dog, my family, drinking chai tea on a summer evening watching the sun set behind the mountains. With my love of baseball comes great responsibility. I need to watch every home run Giancarlo Stanton hits, every strikeout Chris Archer throws, every base Billy Hamilton steals, every at-bat of Hunter Pence, and hell, I even try to catch every Bartolo Colon start (not literally -- that's Kurt Suzuki's job). But the weirdest tick in my baseball routine is checking on every offensive stat and defensive highlight of the one and only Darwin Barney, current Blue Jay and forever Beaver.
Darwin Barney is the reason I fell in love with baseball. Way back in 2006, I was barely past fourth grade, just about to start my first season of little league, and I had no idea what baseball should look like. That's when I tuned in to the College World Series and saw Darwin Barney leading Oregon State past North Carolina for their first ever national championship. Barney was simply amazing -- quick feet, excellent hands, feisty approach at the plate -- and he did everything with that beautiful smile of his. I saw the excellence possible in baseball and the joy the sport can create. I was inspired to be Darwin Barney, gifted defender, patient hitter, emotional leader; so began my baseball career and my undying love affair with baseball.
I wasn't a fan of Oregon State until the 2006 College World Series. My mom grew up as an Oregon Ducks fan and tried to steer me greenward bound, but by the power of Darwin Barney (and Jacquizz Rogers, Roberto Nelson and Brandin Cooks to a lesser extent), I prevailed wearing orange and black. I'm certainly not the most devout Beavers fan here -- I've never been to Corvallis and the only Beavers games I've seen live were in Boulder while I was covering the Buffaloes -- but I try to maintain my fandom the best that I can. My fandom, which is admittedly more casual than I wish, began with Darwin Barney and his lovely smile.