He’s just 12, but he just picked up a D1 baseball offer
GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) — Elijia Barney is no different than any other 12-year-old baseball player in that he hopes to make his middle school team, but you can be assured he’ll be the only seventh-grader to show up for tryouts with a Division I college offer in his back pocket.
The Barney family has produced some of the greatest athletes to ever come out of Gulfport, and Elijia appears set to also make a name for himself.
Grambling State offered Elijia a baseball scholarship last week.
His father, Jeffrey Barney, was a standout shortstop at Grambling State from 2006-10, but he was still taken aback when he received the news in an email from GSU head coach James Cooper.
“I was amazed, honestly,” he said.
Elijia’s response echoed his father.
“It was a good feeling. I was very surprised,” the youngster said.
Elijia is entering his seventh-grade year at Gulfport’s Central Middle School after putting together an impressive summer with the Gulfport Green Wave.
Jeffrey Barney is the son of former Gulfport football star Milton Barney Sr., who was a receiver at Alcorn State. In the NFL, he suited up for the Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The most prominent athlete in the Barney family is Jeffrey’s great uncle, Detroit Lions great Lem Barney. The legendary cornerback who played at Jackson State was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992.
While football stardom is a family tradition for the Barneys, Elijia Barney acknowledges that baseball is his sport of choice.
“He had a breakout season this year,” Jeffrey Barney said. “He hit 18 home runs (in 35 games) this summer. The (USSSA Global World Series) we played in, he hit five home runs. With his stature, they see him growing.”
At 5-foot-8, 160 pounds, Elijia is bigger than most 12-year-olds after growing 8 inches in the last year.
Along with the growth spurt, Elijia credited his big season to hard work.
“The first week of baseball, we just started going to the field every day and started working on hitting,” he said.
Elijia pitches and plays both corner positions on the infield.
“I honestly see him as being a corner infielder,” Jeffrey Barnes said. “He’s a good pitcher too, but with the way he swings the bat I don’t think be they’ll be able to take the bat out of his hands.”
Jeffrey Barney, who made All-SWAC in 2009 and 2010, was coached by Cooper during his final year of college baseball and the two men had previously discussed Elijia’s obvious talent on the baseball field.
Since Elijia recently received the offer, his father has witnessed a new competitive fire in his son.
“I think it’s good for him. It gives him something to look forward to,” Jeffrey Barnes said. “Now that he’s got the offer all he wants to do is workout. He wants to get ready for the upcoming school year. The middle school hasn’t had tryouts so that’s one reason he’s working so hard.”
Information from: The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com