After 33 years, Barnes still the best

Gerald Barnes led Westside to a 26-4 record before being eliminated in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs this year.

Gerald Barnes has won 684 baseball games at Westside High School, more than anyone in Georgia history. He's learned plenty along the way.


Barnes was rattling off one lesson this week when he was talking about his latest season, his 33rd, a splendid effort that ended in the state quarterfinals.

"Only one (team's) season finishes with smiles," he said.

Westside's season didn't end that way this year, but there was plenty to remember.

The Patriots won 26 of their 30 games, slugged the ball all over a park that now bears Barnes' name and delivered plenty of pride during a period when all sorts of demands tugged at their coach's spirit.

For his work, Barnes is The Augusta Chronicle' s Georgia Baseball Coach of the Year.

The Patriots were the area's top offensive team -- three players hit more than 10 homers -- and, at one point, looked capable of mashing their way to a state title, which would have been Barnes' third. But Lovett swept them out of the playoffs in the quarterfinals by eking out a 9-8 win and taking the second game, 13-6.

Two days later, Barnes was drying his eyes as the school dedicated the field to its longtime coach.

Barnes' wife, Sissy, was hospitalized during the playoffs and unable to attend the ceremony, She was fighting complications of a stroke suffered nearly three years ago and was released the following week.

Barnes said he enjoyed visiting her after games and relaying the result, which was a winning one most of the time.

"You know, that's been a big part of our life ... my wife is a big part of what I do," Barnes said.

Three colleagues grabbed the microphone and spoke on Barnes' behalf during the field dedication ceremony. The last, Harlem coach Jimmie Lewis, called Barnes the best coach he's ever been around.

"(Coaches) always say it's about the players," Lewis said.

Then he pointed at Barnes and said, "But I don't believe anyone has been better than him."