“I always had to work hard for what I wanted,” Barth said.
Barth stood 5-foot-9, 178 pounds with a mountain of a task ahead of him entering his freshman year at Augusta State. He wanted to play baseball, but he was unable to secure a scholarship after his prep days at Oconee County.
Coach Skip Fite gave him a chance, and Barth earned his way onto the 2002 roster as a preferred walk-on.
When the catcher position opened that season, Barth played his way into the starting lineup. The rest became actual history.
“He was a self-made guy,” said Chris Cooper, who was a senior on the 2002 team and became an assistant coach thereafter. “He walked on and turned himself into a catcher. As he got older, he earned respect and went about his business. He was always motivated.”
Despite walking on, Barth became a four-year starter behind the plate for the Jaguars. He hit .307 and played steady defense his freshman season. Growth showed his sophomore year when Barth hit .333 and developed a little power, hitting four home runs and slugging .514 in 35 games.
Barth’s junior season in 2004 was when it came together for the scrappy athlete, and another goal was soon accomplished.
In the second game of a Peach Belt Conference doubleheader against No. 10 Armstrong Atlantic on March 14, 2004, Barth went 3 for 4 with two doubles. It was one of his better days in a season full of good games, but no one expected the spark it created.
By the end of the 2004 season, Barth had a hit in every game from that 9-8 win against the Pirates to a May 14 loss to Pfeiffer, totaling 34 games in a row. He hit .400 and failed to get a hit in only three games that season.
After an off-season layover, the hitting didn’t stop. Barth’s hitting streak reached 42 games on Feb. 15, 2005, setting the Peach Belt record and tying for second-longest streak in Division II history. It came against Presbyterian, and the player he tied was watching from the visiting dugout as a Blue Hose assistant.
“I’m glad he got to extend it,” said Kevin White in 2005, who recorded a 42-game hitting streak while with Presbyterian. “I wish he wouldn’t have done it against us.”
Barth needed to extend the streak five more games for the all-time record. He hit safely in four consecutive games, setting up a chance to put himself in the record books.
Against Paine on Feb. 23, Barth failed to get a hit in his first three at-bats.
He had one last chance, and he had a goal to accomplish.
“You could of kind of see it in his eyes,” Fite said after the game. “I knew the old Sam was there.”
In the seventh inning, Barth lined a 1-1 curveball from Paine reliever Brandon Hall to left field for a single to break the record.
He became the first player in Division II history to hit safely in 47 consecutive games.
“I can’t believe I got a hit that many games in row,” Barth said. “It’s hard to do 47 times in row. Hitting a baseball is not the easiest thing to do in the world.”
Barth went 0 for 4 the next game to end the streak at 47.
Less than three months later, Florida Southern’s Nick Diyorio started a streak of his own that eventually inched past Barth’s at 49 games in a row.
Barth’s record was broken March 25, 2006, but the memory of his record lives in a frame in Barth’s office and in conversation.
“The Augusta Chronicle put me on the front page of the entire newspaper, and I have a framed copy in my office,” he said. “It’s always a neat story. I get to talk a good bit about it.”
Barth, who played in every game as a senior but didn’t start them all, finished that year hitting .310.
Cooper said the level of competition was tougher for Augusta State during those seasons, which made the streak even more impressive.
“It was amazing what he did,” Cooper said. “Looking back, hats off to him. The conference was a lot different back then, playing some tough teams. What he did was really special.”
Barth failed to garner draft attention, but after graduating from Augusta State, he played a season of professional baseball in Germany. He called it a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
After returning home, Barth’s streak of accomplishing goals didn’t stop.
He wanted to be a judge. He graduated from law school at Michigan State and now works in prosecution as an assistant district attorney in Walton County, Ga.
Barth has experienced 10 jury trials and worked convictions on cases ranging from identity fraud to murder.
Perhaps his most rewarding goal was achieved when he married the former Molly Brooks, his best friend from high school. He said he bothered her until she agreed to marry him, and they have been together eight years with two children.
Cooper described Barth’s goal-driven motivation as “amazing.” Cooper’s former teammate went from asking odd questions, such as why they wore certain-colored jerseys, as a freshman, to leading a program, setting an NCAA record and putting himself on track to reaching his career goal.
“Life really turned out for him,” Cooper said.
Barth said he’s been lucky. He also knows hard work has helped along the way.
“I set personal goals for myself, and I work to reach those goals,” Barth said. “It’s nice to succeed. It comes from working hard and focusing on exactly what you want.”