ARLINGTON – As J.J. Barea made the slow walk to the mound to throw out the first pitch of Wednesday night’s game between the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox, the Dallas Mavericks’ guard was transfixed on one particular thing.
“All I wanted was to get (the ball) there,” Barea told Mavs.com. “I got it there.”
Barea’s pitch to Delino DeShields on a muggy night at Globe Life Park was a bit high to the point where DeShields had to leap to catch it. But, following a few laughs, Barea took solace in the fact that at least the ball crossed the plate.
In explaining the difficulties of trying to throw a pitch 60 feet, 6 inches from the mound to the plate, Barea said: “It’s definitely hard, especially when you get up on top of the mound.
“That’s when it hits you. It’s tougher than you think, but I made sure I got it there.”
In essence, the kid in Barea dwelled on the silver lining that Wednesday brought. Two of his three kids — seven-year old Sebastian and three-year old Paulina – were on hand for this event, as well as Barea’s mother and father.
The icing on the cake?
“It’s my favorite two teams – the Rangers and the Red Sox,” he said. “So this is a great time. It’s special.”
Barea played his college basketball for Northeastern University in Boston and has spent 10 of his 14-year NBA career playing for the Mavs. As far as any chance of having an inspiring career as a pro baseball player, Barea acknowledged that was never in the cards.
“I played baseball for a couple of years – ages 7-9,” he said. “I had to stop because it was a little slow for me.
“If you know me, I like fast sports. But I think every kid should try baseball in their life because it’s going to help in everything.”
The times Barea spent on the baseball diamond, he said, were both meaningful and enjoyable.
“I was the first at-bat all the time,” he said. “I always got to the base. I found a way to get to the base.”
A native of Puerto Rico, Barea noted that baseball became natural to those in his neighborhood.
“You’re going to see a lot of Latinos in baseball,” Barea said. “We’re born to play baseball. We’ve got that body type, we’ve got the hands. You don’t have to be that tall, so that helps.”
One of Barea’s good friends, Red Sox manager Alex Cora, is from Puerto Rico. Last year in his first season managing the Red Sox, Cora led them to a World Series title while becoming the first manager born in Puerto Rico to win a World Series.
The Red Sox also have a pair of catchers born in Puerto Rico — Juan Centeno and Christian Vazquez.
“Alex is my friend from Puerto Rico,” Barea said. “In Puerto Rico we’re a close group, we help each other out. We think like that, we support each other, so it’ always great to see him. And then to see them do good is even better.”
For Barea’s dad, to see his son do good while becoming a fan favorite in Dallas has been awe-inspiring.
“He’s worked very hard to get where he is,” Jaime Barea said of his son. “Fourteen seasons in the NBA is a big, big blessing. We are so thankful to God for the opportunity.
“J.J. has been an ambassador for Puerto Rico. The baseball players from Puerto Rico—from both teams – they follow him, and the (Red Sox) manager calls him.”
In all, Wednesday was indeed a perfect day at the ballpark for Barea, who is ready to start training camp with the Mavs on Tuesday.
“We have a lot of baseball players (from Puerto Rico) in the major leagues, so this is great that (the Rangers) gave me the opportunity to do this and bring my family out here,” Barea said. “Giving me an opportunity to do this, it’s a dream come true.”