Barksdale realizing dream at RBI World Series
Detroit PAL catcher became guardian of nieces while continuing to play baseball
MINNEAPOLIS -- There was a time when David Barksdale thought he might not get to keep playing baseball.
Between responsibilities at home, baseball practice and a two-hour bus ride home, Barksdale's once straight-A's started to slip. And the first thing to go would be his beloved sport.
As the Detroit PAL catcher described in his essay for his Breaking Barriers Scholarship application, Barksdale quickly went from the youngest child to an older sibling or father figure as his three nieces moved into his house due to some complications with his sister's health. Between his father's illness and his mother working to support their family, Barksdale was suddenly his nieces' caretaker, cutting his own sense of youth short.
"I was forced to be a 'guardian' to my nieces," Barksdale wrote. "Therefore, after I would catch the bus home from school, it was my job to watch after them, bathe them -- basically be a father as a high school freshman. Being forced to do these things meant there was no time for me to get my homework done, seeing that I wouldn't get home until around 8 p.m. because of a two-hour bus ride after baseball practice."
Inspired by the Zig Ziglar quote, "Sometimes adversity is what you need to face in order to become successful," Barksdale worked hard to juggle everything and find a way to make everyone happy.
He found a way to bring up his grades and was able to continue playing the game he loves, the game that allows him to take his mind off everything.
"Baseball is my escape," Barksdale said. "Whenever I'm stressed out or anything, I can just go to the baseball diamond and take my mind off everything. I really don't have to worry about anything when I'm on the diamond."
Barksdale knew at a young age that he wanted to take part in the RBI program. Playing with and against some of the nation's best youth baseball players, Barksdale has served as the starting catcher in each of Detroit's three games through the first two days of the 2013 RBI World Series, helping his team to a 2-1 record.
While Barksdale said he would still be playing baseball if it weren't for the RBI program, he admits it wouldn't be at the same level or provide the same opportunities.
"It means a lot," Barksdale said of the program. "When I was little, I would see RBI on TV and everything and I would tell my mom, 'I want to play for them.' I never really thought I'd have the chance to do this until like two years ago. I was playing with the 15-under team. This is great -- playing at a high level with teams like this and the MLB scouts, it's great."
And his hard work and effort to juggle all his responsibilities has paid off. In the fall, the 18-year-old will attend Indiana Tech University, where he will continue to play baseball.
"I knew that in the end, it would all pay off and that I would be happy that I went through these challenges," Barksdale wrote in conclusion to his Breaking Barriers essay.
"This situation has only made me a better person, improved my time management skills, and has made me very mature for my age by giving me knowledge of how it feels to be a parent that is still attending school."
Kelly Erickson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.