Dodgers’ manager Travis Barbary models faith to players

South Carolinian Travis Barbary took one look at a suspension bridge in downtown Greenville and did not want any part of it. While he will climb 20 feet high in a deer stand and sit for five hours, he won’t walk across the bridge.

“My kids always make fun of me,” said Travis, who was never scared of a bridge until he had children. “Their getting close to the edge of a railing or leaning over a balcony in a hotel terrified me,” he said.

The manager of the Oklahoma City Dodgers, Travis has crossed the bridge over troubled waters.

He felt like his world was falling in when his son, Colton Barbary, 21, was arrested in November 2018 after getting “messed up in drugs bad,” said Travis, who, along with his wife, Raquel, was unaware of his son’s drug use. After going through drug rehab at the Oaks Recovery Center in Greenwood, a ministry of NewSpring Church, though, Colton has become a different person.

Colton’s willingness now to serve others, his commitment to help others, and his growth in his relationship with Christ has led Travis to say, “It’s crazy to see what God is doing in his life and what He is allowing Colton to do.

“[Colton] feels like that is something God is calling him to do, to minister to people who are going through the things he has. It’s an amazing testimony of how when you surrender your life to Christ, you can overcome anything. It’s an amazing story of God’s grace and forgiveness. Where he is now is only by God’s grace.”

There was also a change in the life of his father, Eddie Barbary, a former baseball, football and basketball coach at Easley High School.

Travis learned later in life that his father was alcoholic — something that his father had hidden well. The last year of Eddie’s life, he came to terms with his struggles and got back to living the way that he had been raised by his parents, “Red” and Betty Barbary.

A catcher at Clemson in the mid-1960s and for two Pittsburgh minor league teams, Eddie died of cancer in 2012 at age 67. “He was a very prominent man in our community. He influenced a lot of people,” said Travis.

When he was diagnosed with cancer, Eddie wanted to make amends. “He got his life back on track. The last two years of his life were the best two we had together,” said Travis.

While not wanting his children to be around Eddie for so long, Travis was glad they were able to spend time with him at the end. They golfed and went to Clemson football and baseball games.

Travis had done everything with his grandfather. He wishes he could return to May 22, 1943, the day Red played for the Washington Senators.

“I thought my grandfather could walk on water. He was a role model in his community (Simpsonville), probably the biggest influence in my life,” Travis said. “My grandmother was an amazing woman with the heart of a servant.”

Because of Eddie’s relationship with Christ, Travis knew that he was in a better place. “I had peace knowing that I will see him again someday. I think everything we deal with, good or bad, you can look at Christ and say thank you, because you know in the end He is in control. You might not always understand it, but it gives you peace that we all desire.”

Travis, 48, was saved at Brushy Creek Baptist Church in Easley when he was in the fifth grade. But at the end of his sophomore year at Spartanburg Methodist College, he began to understand what it meant to live as a Christian.

Through 26 years in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ organization and two years with Oklahoma City, a Triple-A affiliate in the Pacific Coast League, Travis has leaned on Jesus.

“He never leaves us or forsakes us. We might not always see it or feel it, but He is right there with us every step of the way,” said Travis, who has been inspired by his wife.

“She holds me accountable,” he said. “I’ve had 27 years with an awesome lady. I am so thankful for her and that our marriage is built on Christ and raising our children.”

Their son Chase, 22, played baseball at Newberry College and now is with the Dodgers’ minor league organization. Their daughter, Carsyn Leigh, 19, attends Clemson, and son Cannon, 15, plays soccer at Powdersville High School. Raquel is a middle school teacher in Powdersville.

The family lives in Greenville and are members of NewSpring Church in Powdersville.

Travis was baptized at The Rock Church in Delaware in 1994 by former Baltimore Orioles pitcher Scott McGregor.

“Through Christ, I found forgiveness and grace that I don’t deserve, second chances. The fact that Jesus was willing to die on the cross for me, someone who is imperfect … it’s an amazing feeling that He loves me so much that He would do that. I see so many things in my life and my children’s lives that I can’t deny the power of Christ’s death and resurrection,” said Travis.

When he began living for Christ instead of himself, and “finally submitted,” it was a turning point.

Travis entered college disappointed. His childhood dream had been to play at Clemson. At Spartanburg Methodist College, he played for Lon Joyce, a Hall of Fame junior college coach, who later became a scout for the Dodgers. Joyce signed Travis after he finished playing at the University of Virginia in 1993. Travis doesn’t think he would have been a Dodger had it not been for Joyce.

One of Travis’ favorite verses is Proverbs 16:9: “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”

“It shows me that I have plans, but God’s plan has been so much better. I rely on Him each step of the way to guide me to the right place and open the right doors,” he said. “In a game like baseball, there are so many ups and downs. Faith gives me peace that He is control and not me.

“The God of peace is what I’m thankful for,” said Travis, who also relies on Romans 15:13: “May the God of hope give you all joy and peace as you trust in him, that peace may overflow with hope in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Travis wants his players to see that he is a Christian by how he lives — the way he talks to them, loves them and supports them.

Oklahoma City pitcher Joe Brussard said, “Travis is a big believer in Jesus Christ, and that transfers to the game. It’s awesome to see a guy like him praise the Lord so much and give it all on and off the field. I follow Jesus Christ myself. It’s great to have somebody else in the game practicing the same beliefs.”

Connor Joe, Oklahoma City infielder, said that Travis “has unbelievable character, a man of faith. He leads by example.”

As a catcher, coach and manager, there are days that Travis asks himself, ‘Why am I allowed to do something so awesome? I don’t want to take it for granted. Spiritually, I want to continue to grow daily, continue to have opportunities and go where God puts me and make the most of it.

“None of this is because of me. Everything that I have been able to do is because of Christ living in me.”

— Bill Sorrell is a freelance writer living in Whiteville, Tenn.