When Rody Barker shared his decision with his mother, telling her that he was going to continue his baseball career at Texas A&M, Angie Barker could sense his joy.
Then again, She was rejoicing, too.
“He was really happy,” Angie said. “Regardless of where he went, to hear the excitement in your child’s voice … it meant the world to me.”
Rody and his mom, though, weren’t the only ones thrilled about his commitment to Texas A&M. He graduated from Tivy two years ago, but still remains a beloved figure at his former high school. His Tivy baseball coach Chris Russ was so happy when Rody relayed the news in person that he embraced his former catcher. Defensive coordinator Jeremy Hickman sent a text to the Kerrville Daily Times, asking if he could share some of his favorite Rody Barker stories for this article. Track and field coach Kevin Pope, who taught Rody’s 10th-grade chemistry class, was also happy to hear that Rody was going to play at A&M on Monday morning, praising his character and work ethic.
They were all happy for the same reason: They knew how hard he had worked to earn an opportunity to play at one of the best baseball programs in the country. Rody wasn’t born with athletic gifts. Frankly, he’s undersized at 5-foot, 9-inches. But he willed himself into a Division-I athlete, earning a reputation in both baseball and football for being the first player to arrive at the practice field and the last one to leave. He never loved football the same way he loves baseball, but still worked hard enough to start at cornerback as a sophomore on Tivy’s 2014 state quarterfinal team.
During school vacations, when most of his peers were enjoying a short break from sports, Rody bombarded Hickman’s phone with texts, asking him to unlock Tivy’s field house so he could work out. During his junior year, Rody shattered three vertebrae on the base paths during a game against Boerne Champion, preventing him from playing football his senior year. Still, he attended every single team workout, every practice and every game that year. He wasn’t going to let an injury keep him from supporting his teammates.
He also never allowed his athletic pursuits to interfere with his academic obligations; he graduated No. 9 overall in Tivy’s 2017 class.
“He’s one of those kids who is in relentless pursuit of perfection every day,” Hickman said. “He’s just a great kid. That’s what makes it so special to see him (go to A&M): To see him work his craft to no end and become a Division-I athlete. It’s an amazing story to me. I love that kid to death.”
Unsurprisingly, he’s achieved success throughout his baseball career. During his senior year at Tivy, he rebounded from his junior-year injury to hit .378/.489/.517 in district play to lift Tivy to a 29-6 record and an appearance in the Class 5A regional semifinals. He then spent the next two years at New Mexico Junior college, slashing .400/.551/.713 with 30 extra-base hits this year as a sophomore, propelling the Thunderbirds to an appearance in the junior college world series in Grand Junction, Colorado.
His performance during the past two seasons has attracted interest from several Division-I programs. Rody ultimately settled on Texas A&M after visiting the campus this weekend, citing his relationship with the coaching staff as a chief reason for his commitment.
He will reuninte with former Tivy teammate Asa Lacy, who has posted a 2.13 ERA in 76 innings. Center Point alum Aaron Walters is also on the squad, giving the Aggies three players from Kerr County.
“Rody is a good addition to their team and he will help them in more ways than they realize,” said Russ, who pitched at A&M from 1998 to 2001. “He’s a likable kid. He works extremely hard and never gives you problems. I am really excited and proud of him, and I know he will do great things there.”
Russ has done everything in his power to convince the Aggies’ coaches to recruit Rody. He was once a graduate assistant at A&M with current Aggies’ head coach Rob Childress and recruiting coordinator Justin Seely, and still has a good relationship with both coaches. On March 30, Russ was in College Station for the 1999 College World Series team’s 20-year reunion. He told both Childress and Seely that they needed to take a look at Rody.
They followed Russ’s advice and watched one of his games. They liked what they saw, so they hosted him on a visit this past weekend.
Rody loved the campus, and quickly connected with his future coaches. His old coaches and friends love that A&M’s coaches will have a chance to witness his work ethic, the same one they have admired for the last few years.
“He wants to go there and try win a championship and play in the SEC,” Russ said. “Whether that is on scholarship or as a walk-on, he doesn’t care. He is a guy who is going to go in there and work. He will earn every bit of playing time that he can.”