- Cindy Yu
Trevor Barnes of the IMG Academy 14U Summer Wood Bat League overcomes the odds to pursue his dream
Trevor Barnes of the IMG Academy 14U Summer Wood Bat League (WBL) Wahoos comes up to the plate in the top of the second inning to bat. He takes his stance, waits for the right pitch, and SMACK! He drives the ball to right field for a single and drives a runner home. For all those watching, it looked just like a routine play, executed by a talented young man swinging a baseball bat. However, what those spectators don't know is that Trevor Barnes may be be the first person to ever return from major idiopathic scoliosis surgery to play high-level competitive baseball.
“I didn’t really think I could play baseball after scoliosis,” Barnes said. “When I got the chance to play again after possibly never coming back, I was ecstatic.”
The Hurricane, W. Va. native was initially diagnosed with scoliosis at age 11 after feeling lower back pain. Since it was just a mild case at the time, his pediatrician recommended checking in for x-rays each year to monitor the curvature, especially since scoliosis typically progresses in the adolescent years. Two years later, after observing the most rapid curvature growth in her two decades of practicing pediatric medicine, his pediatrician immediately referred Barnes to a consultation with orthopedic surgeon Dr. Charles Shuff. Last June, Shuff inserted 20 pedicle screws and two titanium rods to straighten out Barnes’ S-shaped spine, curved at 44 degrees and 32 degrees in his thoracic and lumbar, respectively.
“Trevor’s our only child and he has been and always will be my life,” remarked father Jeff Barnes. “It was the most catastrophic and painful time in my entire life. While we were scared, however, Trevor was never afraid. He was very brave throughout the entire process and never showed any anxiety or fear prior to the surgery.”
As one of only two orthopedic surgeons in W. Va. that specialized in adolescent scoliosis, Shuff had performed over 800 successful surgeries. After the completion of Barnes’ surgery, Jeff hugged Shuff in appreciation of bringing the quality of life back to his son.
Athletics runs in the Barnes family. Trevor’s father played for five years with the Texas Rangers and his mother holds state records in high hurdles. His cousin Randy is a world record holder for indoor and outdoor shot put, as well as an Olympic champion in the event.
While Jeff was blessed for the good fortune, he couldn’t help but express a little disappointment that his son’s days of playing baseball had come to an end, to which Shuff responded, “His athletic career is over when I say it’s over.”
Barnes was bed-ridden in the hospital for two weeks and at home for two months following his surgery. Unable to turn sideways and limited in movement, he went on pain medication. Barnes then endured a three-month recovery period of rehabilitation at Tay’s Physical Therapy and sport-specific training at Potential Plus before receiving clearance to play baseball again.
Even scoliosis has a silver lining. With the surgical procedure, Barnes actually gained two inches of height. Now he stands at an imposing 6-foot-2, a giant among most high school freshmen. He now stands taller and straighter than before with more self-confidence than he’s ever had in his entire life.
“I don’t think there’s going to be anything that he faces in his future that will be more difficult than what he’s already overcome,” Jeff expressed.
Ready to play for Hurricane Middle School in the spring of his eighth grade, the lefty picked right back up as if nothing ever happened, hitting .363 and starting at first base.
In hopes of some day playing college baseball at a university with an outstanding film program, the class of 2017 hopeful is on the right track.
“I keep pushing because I’m just another player,” Barnes said. “I don’t feel like I’m that special. I just try to get better and train harder.”
This summer, he has improved his game at IMG Academy and looks forward to carry over what he learned as he enters high school.
“When I first laid eyes on him during evaluation, I didn’t know he had that surgery,” commented coach Cliff Wren. “He’s a big part of the team. A lot of players look up to him and appreciate him. He comes in every day and works hard. His hitting is there and his footwork has gotten better. Though his arm has a little ways to go, it’s definitely better than we he first got down here. I’m surprised by how he has taken all of this information in and applied it to games.”
Wren noticed that every time Barnes steps out onto the field as if it is a brand new day. He sees a bright future ahead.
“Just watching him and being around him, I’m really anxious to see how his future unfolds and how far he goes,” Wren said. “He has to fine-tune some things but he has the swing and he has the power. His attitude is great, too, and I can definitely see him playing for as long as he wants.”
While Barnes faces challenges with flexibility and running because of his scoliosis, Wren has not only helped him progress in those areas, especially in spring training, but also slide for the first time since his surgery.
Barnes plans to come back to IMG Academy every year to play the game he loves.
His involvement with baseball dates back to when he started out in t-ball at age five. Prior to his surgery, Barnes worked his way through the little league system and played travel ball for the West Virginia Storm, formerly ranked as the No. 1 youth Triple-A team in the nation.
It is nearly impossible to distinguish Barnes in terms of performance from his teammates, which is incredibly remarkable considering how much adversity he has overcome. Nothing noticeable has prohibited the miracle child from having outstanding baseball experiences.
Regardless of the way his career pans out, Barnes serves as an inspiration and testimony for what one can achieve with hard work and unflinching fortitude.
Photo by: Cindy Yu