MISENHEIMER, N.C. - When former Falcon pitcher Jeff Barkley graduated from Pfeiffer University in May of 2013, he wasn't exactly sure what he wanted to do with his life. One thing he was sure of though was that he wasn't ready to give up playing America's game. Going undrafted following graduation, Jeff decided in June of 2013 that he would settle for nothing less than carrying on the family legacy. During the summer of 2013 Jeff was able to wrangle a few tryouts. He traveled to Myrtle Beach and threw for the Atlanta Braves, and then west to Kentucky to toss a few for the Major League Baseball Bureau. With Jeff's baseball future uncertain, he decided to return to what he knew best, fundamentals.
Over the next several months, Jeff would keep up a rigorous workout and throwing program with the goal of maintaining his current arm and body strength. Never losing sight of his ultimate goal, to get noticed by a pro team or scout and make it to the Majors. While practicing and maintaining a high level of fitness, Jeff leaned on his mentor and old coach, Dusty Blake for advice and encouragement. "Dusty was one of my biggest supporters and mentors," Barkley said. "We kept in touch after my senior year, and we both knew what I had to do if I wanted to play pro ball. Work hard, and never give up." And work hard was exactly what Jeff would do. Jeff continued his conditioning and throwing program throughout the summer, and eventually it paid off.
The second-to-last week in January Jeff got a call from the St. Louis Cardinals organization. The call was a formal invitation to attend Cardinals' Spring Training in Jupiter, FL on April 3rd. That call, the one Jeff had been waiting for, the one he knew deep down was coming the whole time, now makes Jeff the third generation of professional baseball players in his family. Jeff's dad, Jeff Barkley Sr., also a pitcher, was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 13th round of the 1982 Major League Baseball Draft. He played in his first Major League game in 1984 and pitched four innings over the course of three games that season. In 1985 he saw action in 21 games, pitched 41 innings, and struck out 30 batters. His two-year Major League pitching career ended on July 26, 1985, before Jeff Jr. had even been born. Jeff's father wasn't the only Major League ball player in the family though. Jeff's grandfather, Bill Barkley played professional baseball with the Washington Senators organization.
It wasn't a complete surprise when the Cardinals came calling. Jeff had initially thrown for two scouts from the Cardinals' organization, one of which kept track of him during his senior season at Pfeiffer and one who had started scouting Jeff as early as his junior year. It all started to become real about three weeks ago when Jeff had an opportunity to throw for the Cardinals' AA Manager. The rest as they say is history. Jeff plans to continue working hard so he can report to Spring Training in the best shape possible. He intends to spend part of his time at Pfeiffer training with his old team, conditioning his throwing arm and preparing for April.
Ever humble, Jeff knows that this journey is not one he makes alone. "I thank my family and all my coaches in the past and present at Pfeiffer along with my teammates that have supported and helped me get to where I am today. But mostly I thank God for this opportunity."