This year, the Tech baseball team got off to a hot start behind the hitting it has historically been known for under coach Danny Hall. An unexpected flag bearer has come through to lead that charge at the plate: sophomore catcher Joey Bart.
As a freshman, Bart appeared in 43 games for the Jackets, putting up 47 hits in 157 for a .299 batting average. He finished with one home run that came in a game against UConn at the NCAA Gainesville Regional.
This year, Bart has already matched or surpassed his totals from last year in just over half as many games. He is currently batting .339 with a team-leading 11 home runs, 31 RBIs and .704 slugging percentage. Bart attributed this to the time he spent in the Cape Cod league this past summer.
“I met a guy up [at Cape Cod] who kind of cleaned my mind,” Bart said. “I just took the game from a different perspective, and now I just try to come out here and have fun.”
While he may be on a hot streak right now, Bart is anything but complacent.
“[I need to work on] my pitch selection. I’m an aggressive hitter,” Bart said, acknowledging that he still has work to do.
Bart currently sits at 25 strikeouts on the season. While hitters who hit more home runs also tend to strike out more often, Bart is still sitting above two other starters in the stat. As the season wears on, pitchers will give him more respect, meaning that he will also have to adjust accordingly.
“[I can’t] miss any pitches because I’m not going to get too many,” Bart said.
Bart may be a presence behind and at the plate right now, but a few years ago, he was unsure of what sport he would be playing. He is grateful to his role model, a man who coached him at age 14.
“Michael Barrett, he was a catcher for the Chicago Cubs for like 10 years. … I think that’s when my career made a turnaround,” Bart recalled. “I was between [baseball] and football. Then I wound up with him and grew a little bit. Things started to click, and I cleared my mind out. He showed me the right perspective of how to take the game in.”
After he was set on the sport, he still had to make a choice on a school.
“My three schools were Tech, Georgia and Clemson. At the time, [their] coaching staffs were kind of shaky.”
But the decision soon became clear to him.
“I remember one day, I was hanging out at school, and it just hit me. I was wondering why I hadn’t already committed.”
He soon did.
Bart’s value at Tech is clear now that he is halfway through his second season. Having a leader in a position such as catcher is highly important for successful baseball teams.
“I made the [pitch] decisions in high school,” Bart said. “I’m making the decisions here now, and thankfully I can do that. I feel like the catcher is the most important guy out there, and I like to put myself in that position.”
The mindset that he possesses is ideal for the position he plays. If a quarterback is a game controller in football, the catcher is the game controller in baseball.
Finally, Bart discussed what he thought the team needed to do to bring their performance to as it was earlier in the season.
“We just need to be consistent,” Bart said plainly. “[Tuesday] night, we played a good game, but we had one crazy inning. We just have to eliminate those big innings, and if we can do that we’ll be fine.”
Bart’s relaxed tone and friendliness belie his fierce competitive nature. That will be crucial to Tech baseball winning key games as the competition gets tougher and the season wears on.