Most players begin playing baseball in their backyard.
This summer both Kyle Winkler and Barrett Barnes are continuing to do that as the former Fort Bend stars play for the Sugar Land Skeeters. Winkler played at Kempner High School, about a mile or so north of the Constellation Field, while Barnes played at Austin High School, just a few miles northwest. Both players had success in college and in the minor leagues but are hoping a good summer will make them the next Skeeters to be signed by a major league organization.
Winkler grew up in Sugar Mill and pitched Kempner into the playoffs as a senior.
“I remember we were always competing with Austin for a playoff spot,” Winkler said.
He went on to play for Texas Christian University. As a junior in 2010, Winkler won their superregional game against the University of Texas to advance to the College World Series.
“I still remember that game as it sent us to Omaha, and it was against Texas,” Winkler said.
Winkler still holds the TCU record for most starts in a season with 19 in 2010, and he is tied for fourth place for most wins in a season with 12 in 2010, and most innings pitched in a season with 116.2, also in 2010. He also is tied for fourth for most games started in a career with 46, and most wins in a career with 27.
“I have the greatest respect for Coach (Jim) Schlossnagle. He got the best out of me,” Winkler said.
Winkler was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 10th round in 2011. From 2012 to 2017, Winkler played in the minor leagues, advancing as high as Class AAA. His career statistics up to 2017 are a 16-22 record in 215 games with an earned run average of 4.50.
“The minor leagues are what you make of it. It’s not glamorous,” Winkler said. “Everyone is trying to make it to the Major Leagues.”
In his time with the Skeeters, Winkler has appeared in 21 games and has a 1-0 record with a 3.85 earned run average.
“The Skeeters are a great bunch of players. We just want an opportunity to make it to the Major Leagues,” Winkler said. “But it is nice playing in Sugar Land. The facilities are first class and we have a great group of guys. Plus, my parents can walk to the ballpark to see me pitch.”
Barnes grew up in Sugar Land and attended Austin High school. After earning all-district honors at Austin High School in 2009, Barnes attended Texas Tech University where he was Big 12 Conference Freshman of the Year, and only the fourth player in school history to make the All-Big 12 first team his freshman, sophomore and junior years. Barnes became only the second player in school history to record the following career statistics: .300 batting average, 500 at-bats, 150 runs, 200 hits, 50 doubles, 30 home runs, 100 runs-batted-in, 100 walks and 50 stolen bases.
The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Barnes in the first round in 2012. His best season was in 2016 with Altoona of the Class AA Eastern League where he hit .306 with nine home runs and 47 runs-batted-in. Injuries have hurt his career as he has had five hamstring pulls and a pulled oblique muscle since he entered professional baseball.
“I try not to worry about the injuries. You have to keep going and strap up your cleats every day,” Barnes said. “I try to have fun but not take each game for granted. You always have another opportunity tomorrow.”
With the Skeeters, Barnes has played in 40 games and has a .233 batting average with two home runs and 10 runs-batted-in.
“I’m here to try for another opportunity at the Major Leagues,” Barnes said. “The best part is that I’m home. My mother lives in Richmond and hasn’t missed a game all year. That’s what it’s all about.”