By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. —
Dustin Barrett’s name has been on the fieldhouse wall at Lou Peery Field in Tazewell for years now, having been an All-Class AA first team honoree as a senior pitcher for the Bulldogs in 1999.
Now his name has been placed onto another wall, as a member of the Milligan College Athletics Hall of Fame, having been a standout on the mound for the Buffaloes from 2000-03.
“I am not a big ‘look at me’ type of person,” Barrett said. “It will be better to look back on it some day, but at the moment I am glad I had the opportunity and glad I made the friends I did. It will mean more as I get a little bit older.”
Perhaps when his 18-month-old daughter is old enough to see his name and picture on that shrine wall and ask what it is all about.
“I think it is going to sink in more then,” said Barrett, who resides in Johnson City, Tenn., with his wife, Lauren, and his daughter, Caroline. “I am proud to have that at the moment, but it will mean more as time passes.”
Barrett attended a ceremony during Milligan’s homecoming festivities in October. It included a golf tournament in which he was able to rekindle some old friendships, while officially becoming a member of the school’s athletic shrine.
“Actually I got a call from a lady from Milligan,” said Barrett, who added that current Milligan baseball coach and close friend Nathan Meade, and Barrett’s father, Steve, may have played a part in his induction. “She said we want to induct you into our hall of fame.
“I was taken aback by it. I was really surprised.”
A 1999 graduate of Tazewell High School, Barrett graduated from Milligan in 2003, having played four years of baseball for the Buffaloes, setting school records for most wins in a season (10), most career innings pitched and was second in career victories.
Barrett chose Milligan prior to his senior season at Tazewell, and stuck with that decision even when Danny Clark took over as coach of the Buffaloes.
“The coach that recruited me left and I ended up playing for Danny Clark, who was a fiery young man who made you want to run through a brick wall for him,” Barrett said. “I stayed there and that was one of the better decisions I have ever made.”
He was a two-time All-Appalachian Athletic Conference selection while at Milligan, including a stellar sophomore campaign in which he was the AAC Pitcher of the Year, along with being an NAIA All-American and a first team pitcher on the NAIA Region XII team.
That wasn’t easy to do in the hitter-friendly AAC, but former Tazewell head coach Lou Peery said it was that ‘bulldog’ attitude that attributed to his success.
“Dustin was a competitor,” Peery said. “It is an old saying, but he really was a bulldog on the mound. He threw the ball well, he was a hard worker too and that got him over to Milligan.
“He did a real fine job there. Coach Clark was really high on him.”
Barrett had a stellar senior season at Tazewell, going 10-1, while learning principles during his four years playing for Peery that have carried him throughout his life.
“Baseball helped pay for some school and it really did help out,” said Barrett, who has a B.S. in Exercise Science from Milligan and Doctorate of Physical Therapy from East Tennessee State. “Just being in a team atmosphere like that, it helped keep you level-headed and with goals in mind and that carries over to daily life now.
“It has helped me in learning how to deal with people, learning how to work as a team and it has definitely had a carry-over effect for me.”
His career was derailed somewhat during his junior season, having to endure shoulder surgery, but Barrett turned that setback into a positive by focusing on his future, which is currently working with an out-patient private practice as a physical therapist, including helping out with athletes and specifically baseball players at Milligan.
“I had to have shoulder surgery in the middle of (my junior) season,” Barrett said. “I came back after that, but I was never the same. Everything happens for a reason. That led me to go to P.T. (physical therapy) school and now I am where I am at now.”
Barrett, whose parents, Steve and Debbie Barrett of Tazewell, helped with the construction of the Tazewell Little League and Lou Peery Field complexes, got his start on the diamond in baseball-hungry Tazewell.
“I was an only child so I went outside and threw the ball against the wall,” said Barrett, who added with a laugh. “I wasn’t coordinated enough to do anything else, but that worked out OK.”
Very well. Barrett had a stellar career for the Bulldogs for Peery, who retired after last season, leaving a legacy that will be hard to replace.
“So many of us have looked up to Coach Peery for so many years, and you wanted to play hard for him,” he said. “He taught us simple values and family values, and Coach certainly expected things out of you.
“We would carry that on and off the field and that carried me a long way. Even when you go back, he remembers you by name, he remembers everybody and he still cares for you.”
Aaron Buchanan, a close friend of Barrett’s, has inherited the position from Peery, and Barrett is confident Tazewell baseball will remain one of the area’s best programs.
“I have no doubt that Buck will do a wonderful job,” Barrett said. “He has been working underneath Coach for a few years now. I think he will take it on and do a wonderful job.”
Barrett earned All-Group AA first team honors as a Tazewell senior, one of nine Bulldogs to earn such acclaim over the years. Just like them, his name is on the fieldhouse wall for all to see at the Tazewell baseball complex
The other names? How about Billy Wagner, Jack Compton, Zak Wasilewski, Casey Herald, Jeff Lamie, Stuart Angles, T.J. Taxley and Shannon Angles, a ‘who’s who’ in the history of area high school baseball.
No wonder Barrett feels so blessed to be recognized for his exploits on the diamond.
“I think it is something to be proud of to be on that wall with those guys,” Barrett said. “We all went out and worked hard and to get something like that accomplished and be recognized for all-state and then get into a hall of fame is something to be very proud of.
“I feel like I am in great company.”
—Contact Brian Woodson@firstname.lastname@example.org