|Zach Clinton (left) and Josh Barrick have each decided to play baseball at Liberty University, beginning in the 2014-15 academic year.|
High school baseball standouts Josh Barrick and Zach Clinton, both of Forest, Va., each signed letters of commitment on Tuesday, Nov. 19, to play for the Liberty University baseball team beginning in the 2014-15 academic year. The seniors from Liberty Christian Academy in Lynchburg, Va., each received interest and communication from several other colleges, including Duke, Davidson, Southeast Missouri State, Morehead State, Virginia Tech, and the Naval Academy.
Playing for the Flames will continue a remarkable 13-year run in which Barrick and Clinton have played on every baseball team together since age 5.
“It’ll be like the next four chapters,” Barrick said. “It is like our book is still only three-fourths of the way done and this is the next part of our story.”
“We have always been dreaming about college, now it’s actually happening,” Clinton added.
The friends have managed to excel in other sports, such as football and basketball, while working on — if not playing — baseball year-round. On top of that, they are leaders in LCA’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter and are both national merit scholars.
Their close relationship has led to strong chemistry on the field and extra motivation off the field.
“We’ve always pushed each other, raising the expectation level for one another,” Clinton said.
“We are like brothers,” Barrick added. “We have always been able to play next to each other knowing that we have each other’s back.”
The duo’s dedication has involved an estimated 60-100 baseball games per year since age 9 and countless hours of practice.
“You don’t see a lot of guys who are on the football field Friday night and then Saturday morning are on the baseball field chasing ground balls,” said Randy Tomlin, head baseball coach for LCA and for the Richmond Braves national travel team that Barrick and Clinton have played on for five years.
The reward has been bountiful. Clinton and Barrick have each earned several individual athletic honors and together led teams to dozens of championships.
Tomlin said their encouragement for one another has led to an unrivaled level of excellence. (Tomlin played for Liberty from 1986-89 before going on to play professional baseball for nine years. He served as an assistant coach at Liberty from 1998-2007 and coached with the Washington Nationals organization before returning to Lynchburg.)
“They practice with intensity in order to raise the level and push each other to be competitive in everything that they do,” Tomlin said. “Because of their work ethic, because of their desire, because of their competitiveness, when they step on the field (at Liberty) there won’t be anybody who will be able to outwork them in that respect. … This opportunity to play in college is earned not given. They have done what they needed to do to earn the right to compete at (the collegiate) level.”
Tomlin added that more importantly than skill, they both display strong character and leadership.
“Every team that I have seen them both on, the team has been made better in every way because of the influence that they bring. Both on the field — with their work ethic, expectation for competing and practicing, to their own character and godliness and how they handle themselves — as well as off the field through the way they live,” he said. “Their standards are most importantly God’s standards. They are leaders both while playing and while they are around the other guys on each team.”
Barrick and Clinton each have strong ties to Liberty. Both of their fathers and mothers are graduates of the university. Clinton’s father, Dr. Tim Clinton, is the executive director of the Center for Counseling & Family Studies. Andy Barrick (’00), Josh’s father, played for Liberty’s baseball team during the 1984-85 season before going on to another school out of which he was drafted to play professionally. He later went on to complete his degree with Liberty. Andy Barrick, often assisted by Dr. Clinton, coached all the boys’ baseball teams until high school.
The boys have attended LCA since kindergarten. LCA was started by Liberty founder Dr. Jerry Falwell as a ministry of Thomas Road Baptist Church, which he also started. The church and school are located adjacent to Liberty’s campus. The young men’s choice to attend Liberty is the manifestation of Dr. Falwell’s vision to develop a quality Christian education system from kindergarten all the way through university.
Though the ability to play together in college is a nice perk, the decision to attend Liberty was reached separately.
“We always wanted to play together, but we wanted to see our options and go from there. We are excited for each other,” Barrick said.
What put Liberty over the top, ultimately, was the Christian atmosphere, they said.
“Jesus is everything in my life. I would not be here if it wasn’t for the grace of God,” Barrick said. “Sports are great, we both love baseball, but the most important thing is your relationship with God.”
“My faith is a huge factor in my life,” Clinton said, noting it was nice not to have to choose between a Christian atmosphere and a quality baseball program. “Liberty’s team is on the rise; they have great players; they get better every year. We just want to come in and contribute and be good teammates,” Clinton said, with Barrick adding: “… ultimately helping the Flames win baseball games.”
Tomlin, Tim Clinton, and Andy Barrick all say these two players are prepared to do this.
“The countless hours of practice, the dedication and effort” has provided this opportunity for the duo, said Tim Clinton. “Hard work: it’s a defining characteristic of these two kids; they have worked their souls out. … That is why God has placed them in a role of leadership.”
“Everything we did was trying to prepare them for this opportunity,” Andy Barrick added. “When they go to LU, they know the real work begins. It does not stop. Hopefully they lead and make right choices, and honor God in all they do — and the rest of it will take care of itself.”
Josh Barrick and Zach Clinton each said they would not be the men they are today without the strong spiritual upbringing and encouragement of their parents and coaches. And though they look forward to college, one goal is on their mind as they relish their final year of high school: a state baseball championship. Last season, LCA notched its first-ever state tournament victory before losing in the state semifinals. But this year, Barrick and Clinton say nothing short of the title crown will satisfy the Bulldogs.