The story of a baseball great

A look into the life of Giants’ legend and GBHS baseball coach Jim Barr


© 2017 S. F. Giants

Jim Barr pitched for the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during his long career in Major League Baseball.

Will Anderson, News Editor

  There is only one place on the Granite Bay campus where the grass stays the perfect color green year round – and that is because of James Leland Barr.

  You don’t hear that name very often, usually just Jim or coach, but for the GBHS varsity baseball program, that name means a whole lot more.

  “I guess I started like any other kid, when they’re 8 years old,” Barr said. “I started out playing 10-inch ball, then went through the different levels of baseball all the way up through high school.”

  Barr then attended the University of Southern California where he would graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and NCAA national championships in both 1968 and 1970.

  After being selected in the third round of the 1970 draft by the San Francisco Giants, Barr would log a total of 12 seasons in the major leagues.

  Posting a 3.56 career earned-run average, 101 total victories and 741 strikeouts, Barr’s impressive MLB career was highlighted by his record-setting 41 straight retired batters.

  The record would be broken 37 years after he set it, but Barr is still the only pitcher to accomplish the feat in only two games.

  After his professional career, Barr turned his attention toward coaching.

  He worked as a pitching coach at Sacramento State University for 16 years, and he has coached at GBHS for the past eight years.

  “It’s fun for me because I’ve always enjoyed the coaching end of it – just kind of figuring out things on your own,” Barr said. “I know when I played at the major-league level, the coaches there don’t really, they don’t teach you how to pitch.

  “You either learn how to do it on your own or you get sent back to the minor leagues.”

  Because Barr has been around the game for more than 50 years, the insight he offers to players is that much more valuable.

  “It’s really great because it creates a level of trust that is so high – you know that your coach knows what he is talking about, so it’s very easy to follow instruction and just respect him overall,” said Kyle Sisco, a four-year member of the baseball program.

  Sisco is a pitcher and first baseman for the varsity team, and he has worked alongside Barr for two seasons.

  “He has helped me out by just talking about his experiences and with the mental side of (baseball),” Sisco said. “You know he has been in every situation possible, so it really helps you out as a player.”

  For Sisco, and anyone else who has been involved in the program, Barr’s stories about the game are second to none.

  “He’ll tell us stories, and it’s just fun to listen because every kid wants to be where he was,” Sisco said.

  As Barr has continued his coaching, he has been able to observe the game’s evolution.

  “The game now is all about power. It’s power hitting and power pitching” Barr said. “Not that that’s bad, this is the game now. Hitters are geared – they can hit 97, 98, 99 mile-an-hour fastballs – nothing else has really changed.”

  Aside from coaching and playing, Barr focused his time and energy on his wife Susie and two daughters Emmy and Betsy.

  “I just live right around here, my daughter was in the first graduating class here, so it’s fun for me to be here at Granite Bay,” Barr said.

  Both Betsy and Emmy followed in Jim’s professional athletic footsteps and played as professional soccer players in the Women’s United Soccer Association.

  “My wife took the kids, she went to a lot of the games, we would go down to spring training so they were at the ballpark,” Barr said. “Both of them played softball except for my youngest one, she went back into Little League and was an all-star catcher.

  “Both of them played soccer. They enjoyed doing that, so we coached them and did what every other parent would do.”

  Aside from parenting his daughters, you could consider Barr’s third child the varsity baseball field in back of the GBHS campus, which is one of the best ball diamonds in the area.

  “I’ve seen it done at the major-league level, and I always kind of enjoyed how they kept the field so nice,” Barr said. “Naturally at Sac State there was limited maintenance, somewhat like it is here at Granite Bay, so you help out where you can, and for me that’s enjoyable.”

  Barr’s has done nothing but aid the historically strong Grizzly baseball program.

  “It’s fun, because we have the expectations every year,” Barr said. “At the beginning of the year you know the expectations are that we are going to have a good year so that we can get back to the playoffs – not just to the playoffs (but) back to the playoffs like last year – and that is fun.”