Hello readers, and welcome to Husky History, a column that highlights the accomplishments of one UConn athlete each week and their ability to excel at the professional level.
This week’s edition of Husky History highlights former UConn star pitcher Matt Barnes, a Connecticut native who has had an extensive career filled with impressive accolades.
Growing up and attending school in Bethel, Connecticut as the son of Eric and Jean Barnes, his talent was recognizable early on. At Bethel High School, he earned All-Conference and All-State honors and was named a Connecticut High School Coaches Association All-Star as a senior.
After graduation, Barnes began his collegiate career as a freshman at UConn in 2009. In the expected freshman role, the starter and reliever appeared in 13 games, posting a 5-3 record and a 5.43 ERA. In his 53.0 innings of work, he struck out 55 batters.
Following his freshman season in the summer of 2009, Barnes played for the Wareham Gatemen of the Cape Cod Baseball League, where he totaled 33 strikeouts in 26.1 innings. This solid stint allowed Barnes to make the necessary improvements, priming himself for a big return to Storrs.
Barnes’ sophomore season in 2010 was one that can be considered a breakout year. He posted very respectable numbers, including a 3.92 ERA. While that number may not jump off the page, he particularly shined in the win and strikeout columns. He led the program that year with 75 strikeouts and a record of 8-3 in 15 appearances.
In his junior year, what would be his final season as a Husky, Barnes was named the Big East Pitcher of the Year and a member of the All-Big East First Team. His season was full of new program records, most notably 247 career strikeouts, 121.0 innings pitched in a season and becoming the third player in team history to win 10 or more games in a year, posting an 11-5 record.
Barnes would be selected No. 19 overall by the Boston Red Sox in the 2011 MLB Draft. He would begin his career in the minor leagues as a member of the Salem Red Sox, Greenville Drive, Pawtucket Red Sox and Portland Sea Dogs before making his debut with the Boston Red Sox on Sept. 9, 2014.
As a member of the Red Sox for nine seasons, Barnes served as a relief pitcher before taking the closer role in 2021. That season he earned All-Star honors, producing a 6-5 record with a 3.79 ERA and 84 strikeouts.
The Connecticut product was also a member of the 2018 World Series championship team, a squad that is often considered one of the most dominant teams in MLB history with 119 total wins. The pitcher appeared in three games during that series, collecting four strikeouts in 2.1 innings to help earn the club its ninth world championship.
Barnes has since joined the Miami Marlins for the 2023 season, already appearing in six games. He currently boasts a 1-0 record with a 3.18 ERA and with a large majority of the season yet to be played.
As a player Barnes is something special to watch, but as a person he is equally great. As a member of the Red Sox he was active in aiding the Jimmy Fund, a program that lightens the financial burden for cancer patients and their families.
On March 24, 2016, Barnes was a part of a meet and greet where teenage cancer patients could meet Red Sox players in Fort Myers, Florida during spring training. Barnes interacted with and took pictures with the kids to show his support.
More recently, the former Husky hosted a video game charity tournament on “Call of Duty: Warzone” in 2020. Barnes partnered with former teammate J.D. Martinez and other MLB talents to raise money for several charities including No Kid Hungry, Pros for Heroes, the Florida Mental Health Coalition, Samaritan’s Purse, Louisville YMCA, Sufficient Grace and Homers for Heroes. His passion for giving back is certainly evident throughout his career.
“Hello Red Sox fans!” Barnes wrote in an Instagram post. “I’m excited to share that I will be participating in the Call of Duty: Warzone Charity Royale tournament THIS Saturday and I want you– YES YOU– to be on my team. For this tournament, you have the opportunity to bid to be on my team, while raising money that will go to some amazing charities.”
While in the middle of his playing career, Barnes continues to put on a show for UConn Nation.