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Barnes embraces life in the majors

Willmar Stingers co-owner Marc Jerzak introduced former Stinger Jacob Barnes to a nice gathering of fans and supporters on Thursday, saying the now-Milwaukee Brewers reliever considered Willmar to be his second home.

Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Jacob Barnes signs an autograph for a Willmar Stingers fan during a meet-and-greet at North American State Bank in Willmar on Thursday. Barnes, a former Stinger, became the team's first player to make his Major League Baseball debut this summer. Tom Larson / Tribune.
Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Jacob Barnes signs an autograph for a Willmar Stingers fan during a meet-and-greet at North American State Bank in Willmar on Thursday. Barnes, a former Stinger, became the team's first player to make his Major League Baseball debut this summer. Tom Larson / Tribune.

Willmar Stingers co-owner Marc Jerzak introduced former Stinger Jacob Barnes to a nice gathering of fans and supporters on Thursday, saying the now-Milwaukee Brewers reliever considered Willmar to be his second home.

And Barnes got a reception that suggested Willmar considers him one of its own.

Barnes, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound right-hander, is the first Stinger to reach the majors, and he's one of three former Willmar players to make their Major League Baseball debut this season.

Barnes and fellow pros Jordan Smith, a Willmar native, and Tanner Banks, signed autographs and took questions from a group of about 100 people at a meet-and-greet at North American State Bank.

Barnes has been back to Willmar a few times since his one season with the Stingers in 2010, visiting his hosts, the Art and Annette Benson family.

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In addition to his own family, the Bensons traveled to Philadelphia to be on hand when Barnes made his MLB debut with the Brewers on June 3, adding to the thrill of Barnes' big moment.

Obviously, when you hear you're going up, it's your dream come true," Barnes said. "All your hard work, time spent and sacrifices made paid off. Obviously, it's a really emotional time. I just tried to enjoy it every day I was up and learn everyday. Hopefully, the goal is to stay up there."

Barnes was a 2011 Brewers draft pick. Smith, who also was a Stinger in 2010, was a 2010 Cleveland draftee. Banks, who played in 2011, was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in 2014.

Barnes made the most of his chance, pitching in 27 games and posting a 2.70 earned-run average and striking out 26 in 26-2/3 innings. He earned a save in his last outing of the season.

"I think I did well when I got up," Barnes said. "I just tried to stay consistent and not walk guys, and I ended on a good note. I was getting used in more important roles. I was excited."

The Brewers, too, seemed to like his work. In a post-season review, coaches just told him to stay hungry, Barnes said.

"They said to just keep working and don't feel satisfied," Barnes said. "As long as I keep doing that, they said it should be a good situation for me and I should have a good shot. Don't feel comfortable with it and keep working."

Barnes intends to spend time with his family in St. Petersburg, Florida,-including a sister who just had a baby-during the offseason before reporting for Spring Training in mid-February. He'll take his coaches' advice to heart since his first MLB season taught him that staying there is just as hard as getting there.

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"You really have to focus on the small details now," he said. "You can't just rely on your stuff, movement or whatever you've got. You have to focus on every detail because if you don't, these (hitters) are going to beat you. You have to put in the time and work to stay up with everybody else."

From left, former Willmar Stingers Jordan Smith, Jacob Barnes and Tanner Banks take questions from fans during a meet-and-greet Thursday at North American State Bank in Willmar. Smith, a Willmar native, and Banks are playing minor league ball and Barnes made his major league debut with the Milwaukee Brewers in June. Tom Larson / Tribune.
From left, former Willmar Stingers Jordan Smith, Jacob Barnes and Tanner Banks take questions from fans during a meet-and-greet Thursday at North American State Bank in Willmar. Smith, a Willmar native, and Banks are playing minor league ball and Barnes made his major league debut with the Milwaukee Brewers in June. Tom Larson / Tribune.

Related Topics: WILLMAR STINGERS
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