Aaron Barrett overcome with emotion in return to Nationals clubhouse

Chris Lingebach
September 04, 2019 - 12:02 pm
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The Washington Nationals selected the contract of right-handed reliever Aaron Barrett from Double-A Harrisburg on Wednesday.

For the first time in four years, Barrett, 31, was back with his teammates in Washington preparing to pitch in a big league game.

Barrett's emotional road back from injury included extraordinary setbacks. After undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2015, Barrett fractured his elbow while rehabbing the following summer. It's taken him every bit of the past four years to earn his next big-league call up.

On Tuesday, his skipper, Matt LeCroy – who, as the Nationals bullpen coach in 2015, witnessed Barrett's career unravel from the very beginning – has the distinct honor of informing Barrett he's "going back to the big leagues," an emotion-filled moment captured on camera that has since gone viral.

Now that he's here, Barrett wasn't short of emotions detailing the long road back to Major League Baseball to reporters, offering a humanizing reminder that baseball players aren't the robots they're often portrayed to be.

What have your last 24 hours been like?

Pretty surreal. I tried to picture back kinda when I first got called up in '14, making the team out of camp, kind of what that experience was compared to this, and I honestly think this one might be better than the first one. It's been crazy. You know, they told me in the meeting yesterday, Matt LeCroy and the guys surprised me. I thought maybe September 1st I maybe get a chance, but when it didn't happen, I was like, alright, well maybe after playoffs, help those guys win a championship and maybe it'll happen. Just seeing what happens. They hit me yesterday and, like I said, it's been a crazy ride.

What was that like for you yesterday?

Just super emotional, obviously. You know all the time, and the work and being patient. Like I said, it's been a pretty crazy four years. And then just know what I've put in to get back, and all the people that have supported me throughout the years and through this road, just to kind of realize that it's actually, it's happening, it's happening and it just hits you all at once. And like I said, to have the support from my family and my wife, and the organization has been behind me the whole time. It just hits you like I've never been hit before and I'm just overwhelmed with emotion.

How close did you ever come to quitting?

I mean there were some times it definitely crossed my mind. At first, when I just first started throwing a ball, obviously I didn't think I'd be able to throw a ball in general. And then, you know, there were times where I just didn't know if I would get through it, just the pain was too much. There's just so much going on that I just couldn't take it. I'm not a quitter, never have been, and I just found it within myself to just keep pushing forward. I said it all along, when I make it back, it's gonna be a hell of a comeback story and, like I said, I'm pretty overwhelmed that I'm here to be honest with you. It's crazy. 

Who was the first that you called?

I called my wife. I was crying, obviously. She was balling. It makes me emotional just thinking about it. So I called her to tell her 'we're going back.'

What kind of support has she offered you?

Oh, it's unbelievable. She was basically my nurse for two years. (starts crying). It's been incredible. She's been my rock. Not only her, my family, and this organization has been incredible. ...Sorry. 

I know this has been the goal all along. Was it hard to put that out of your mind, or was it constantly in your mind, even as this season played out, to not be thinking too much about this is all about trying to get back here?

It's just extra motivation. Obviously you start off with baby steps. First it's trying to throw a ball, then it's, 'Okay, let's pitch again.' And then, ultimately in the back of my mind, I said it since day one, there's no point to start playing again if you're not gonna ultimately achieve going back to the big leagues. That's why I'm here, that's why I did it, and just to have that in the back of my mind... You know, I told you guys in camp that, yeah, I was glad to be in big league camp, but I was still planning on going to the big leagues. That's been my goal since day one, and now I'm here and now I have a job to do. It's great that I'm here, but now it's time to go win and help these guys win a championship.

Related: WATCH: Barrett gets told he's 'going back to the big leagues'

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