In a way, Chandler Barnard thought of Saturday night’s ball game as an audition, a chance to pitch the Goldeyes bosses on the merits of his arm.
Well, it didn’t take long for Mother Nature to put the kibosh on that. Instead, rain forced the Goldeyes and the visiting St. Paul Saints to suspend the second game of their three-game series, ready to pick it up Sunday afternoon. It started with a drizzle at the top of the third inning, then escalated to a pelting sheet of rain. Over an hour later, after making an attempt to resume play, the umpires finally decided to suspend the game.
It was a shame for Barnard, who started off solid in his Shaw Park debut. The newest Goldeyes pitcher opened the game with three hitless innings, walking one in that time and striking out two. "It’s frustrating, especially when I feel like things were going pretty well," Barnard said in the concrete hallways beneath the Shaw Park stands. "But you can control the things you can control, and I tried to focus on that."
Not much else to do, other than shake it off and look ahead. The Goldeyes were leading 1-0 when the game was suspended on Saturday night, they’ll carry that lead when the game resumes Sunday at 1:30 p.m.
After that tilt wraps up, the Fish and Saints will play the third and final game of their series. Any fan who had tickets for Saturday’s game, by the way, can exchange them for any other regular-season game, including the June 15 match.
So Barnard will still get his chance, then, to make a bid for a longer gig.
He’s a Texan, 28 years old, and has spent six seasons bouncing around the indie leagues. His previous few stints in the American Association were, by his view, "more rough than better." The longest of those was just last year, when he pitched in 27 games between Amarillo and El Paso; he finished with an 8.42 ERA.
With that disappointment in the rear-view mirror, Barnard started this season with the San Angelo Colts of Texas’ United League Baseball, posting a 0.53 ERA in three games. But as budget cuts loomed in that tiny four-team league, the right-handed hurler found himself shooting off a text to Goldeyes manager Rick Forney earlier this month, hoping there might be a shot in what he described as "the premiere place to play" in independent ball.
Barnard was in luck. Forney had an opening, as the Goldeyes had just released underperforming starter Jason Jarvis. "I thought there was about a one per cent chance there would be an opportunity to come up here," he said. "He had a little window to give me an opportunity, and I’m just incredibly grateful for it, and trying to make the most of it. I was pretty shocked when he replied back and said, ‘Actually, we need a guy Saturday.’ "
The pitcher hustled to meet the Goldeyes in Fargo, where he made his debut last Sunday. He hurled 5 1/3 innings in his first outing and gave up three runs on six hits, prompting pitching coach Jamie Vermilyea to praise his "hard, heavy sinker," after the Fish took a 7-4 win.
Now, Barnard has to try to make the case to stick. It could be tough, especially with highly touted starter Ethan Hollingsworth getting closer to coming off the injured list. (He rolled his ankle before the first game of the season.)
"That’s what the most frustrating thing about tonight was," Barnard said. "I wanted to have a good showing, and kind of establish myself… as more than just a fill-in. I wanted to prove myself."
Not just himself, he added, but all the players toiling in United League Baseball. "We don’t get a lot of attention down there in that league," Barnard said. "There’s some good players down there. I would like to represent them, and the talent that’s down there, because they don’t get a lot of publicity."
Well, game today, then. The Goldeyes and Saints came into Saturday night in an interesting place: After the Fish dropped the first tilt of the series 2-0, that left the Goldeyes, the Saints and the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks all sitting at 18-10 on the season, tied for first place in the competitive North Division. In a twist of fate, the RedHawks game was also rained out on Saturday.