Ty Barkell was a looming presence as a power-hitting first baseman at USC Aiken.
The 6-3 right-handed hitter slugged .573 for his career, including .684 as a senior in 2015. He reached double digits in home runs twice and finished with 32 for his career. He didn't sacrifice contact for power, either. He only struck out 79 times in 195 career games as a Pacer.
Barkell received draft attention coming into his senior season but battled a wrist injury that limited him to 32 games. He came back from it and posted the highest slugging percentage of his career despite the injury, but it affected his draft status and his name wasn't called during the June 2015 process.
Four months later, Barkell signed a minor league free agent deal with the Los Angeles Angels as a pitcher. He always had a strong arm but was held off the mound in college for fear of injury. That arm strength kept his baseball dream alive, and he recently took the next step by making his professional debut.
Barkell is pitching out of the bullpen for the Orem Owlz, a Rookie-level affiliate for the Angels in the Pioneer League. His pro debut came Friday against Grand Junction, where he gave up one run in one inning. His second appearance came Monday against Idaho Falls, where he gave up a run in his first inning but came back to get three consecutive outs in the ninth, including two strikeouts. He totaled four over two innings.
Barkell is a 23-year-old reliever pitching in the Pioneer League, so you won't find him on prospect lists. But he's keeping his dream alive by suiting up in a pro uniform every day, and none of this was guaranteed or even expected last year. Baseball can take people in many different directions, and Barkell is a great example.