I finally met a man that is on one of my cards. I collect baseball cards. I have thousands of different cards, hundreds of different players. You would never think that you would get to meet one and get to work on your game with a player that has won a World Series. Someone that was on a team that was the best one year. And you are getting lessons from him.
I wasn’t currently on a travel team. And that was an upgrade compared to my previous team. My dad and I decided to find a place to get some work in and to stay fresh. But since we had never been in this situation before we didn’t know where to look. My dad decided to email the Pioneer baseball coach because he knows him. He told us a couple of options including about a place called Great Lakes Baseball Academy. We visited their website and saw a couple of the people that would be the instructors there. I did not recognize most of them but one of them happened to catch my eye. His name is Barbaro Garbey. His name also appears on one of my baseball cards at home. What was even more interesting was that he played for my favorite team, the Detroit Tigers and he won a world series with them in 1984. I really wanted him to be my teacher. My dad talked to the owner of the place and he suggested a couple of guys that would fit my needs. I was happier than a little kid with candy when I found out that Barbaro was on the list. The owner said that some of the younger kids have trouble understanding him with his accent, but I really wanted to work with him so I told my dad that the accent wouldn’t be an issue.
One day, while my dad, my brother and I were near the place we decided to go and check it out. At first we couldn’t find it and I was becoming really worried but then a helpful lady at the next door hockey rink showed us how to get to the other side of the building and find the entrance. Once we parked outside of it, I led the way as we marched inside. The facility was great. It had two batting cages and in between them there was a space for some fielding drills and one or two pitching mounds. We met one of the guys that worked there and told him that we were thinking about signing up for some lessons and said we wanted to work with Barbaro. He then explained a little bit about the place and told us what to expect. We left thereafter and I was psyched to start my lessons and get back into baseball mode.
On the day of my first lesson, I was raring to go but I also had some butterflies. I had never met this guy before and I didn’t know what it was exactly going to be like. We arrived and I got out of the car and grabbed my bag. I walked up to the door with my dad and he held it open for me as I walked in. I saw Barbaro finishing working with another kid and I got my first real glimpse of him. He was wearing an Atlanta Braves hat and pullover (which he later explained was because he works for them in the minor leagues) and sweat pants. I introduced myself and told him my name is Brendan but that didn’t matter to him. He always called me “buddy” and didn’t act condescendingly toward me.
I worked with him for about 4 months. He helped me make major improvements to my swing and helped me get more confident in the field. In February, he went down to Florida for the Tigers Fantasy Camp so he wasn’t up here in Michigan to give me lessons. But the next time we saw him, he had a huge surprise for me. My dad had secretly given a couple of baseballs to him before he went down and asked if it was possible to have them signed. Apparently, it was possible because, much to my surprise, he gave me three different balls, one for my brother, one for my dad, and one for me. We stopped our lessons not too long after this partially because he had to go down for the minor leagues and partially because I joined a team and was able to practice with them. Even though I did not know him for that long, I will always remember him, how much he helped me and for everything he did for me. Meeting the man behind the card was one of the best experiences I have ever had.