Brian Barton is the Gwinnett Braves' renaissance man, with a wide range of interests outside baseball. In fact, the speedy outfielder wasn't drafted despite being a College World Series all-tournament pick at the University of Miami because teams thought the aerospace engineering major was more interested in a career with NASA than he was in playing baseball.
Staff correspondent Guy Curtright sat down recently with Barton, 27, to talk about the Los Angeles native's life and his goals in and out of baseball in the latest "Getting to Know ..." installment.
GC: What was your dream growing up, to become an astronaut or a major leaguer?
BB: Both. Everyone should have more than one goal. I never believe in confining yourself.
GC: Was it because of your internship with Boeing and your academic work that teams thought you weren't interested in a baseball career?
BB: I can assume that. But if that was the case, teams hadn't done their due diligence and I think it sent the wrong message anyway. You're a scholar-athlete, so you should be serious about your academic pursuits.
GC: Baseball worked out anyway. The Cleveland Indians gave you a $100,000 bonus plus college funds to sign as a free agent. How did that play out?
BB: I played in the summer and convinced everyone how serious I was about baseball, that it wasn't secondary to me.
GC: Do you have your aerospace engineering degree?
BB: Not yet. I'm a semester short. The classes I need are only offered in the spring, when I'm not available because of baseball. But I always try to keep my mind active.
GC: How did you get interested in outer space?
BB: You wonder what's out there. It intrigued me when I was little and it still does.
GC: What other things intrigue you?
BB: Everything. I like to read. I like to write. I like to travel. I'm trying to learn a couple of languages. Knowledge is so important and I love to learn. Being well-rounded is very important to me.
GC: The Atlanta Braves are your third team. Were you surprised when St. Louis traded you in late April?
BB: Actually, it was a blessing because I had already planned to move to Atlanta in the offseason. I was excited about the trade. I think everything will work out for me great. Being with the Braves is a good opportunity for me.
GC: Why did you plan to move to Atlanta?
BB: I'm the kind of person that loves to explore. I enjoy discovering what it is like in different places. Everywhere is a little different and experiencing the differences enriches your life.
GC: Baseball has been concerned in recent years about the decline in the number of African-American players. Was there peer pressure on you to concentrate on other sports?
BB: I played football in high school and other sports as well, but baseball was always the priority with my family. But there is a need for more inner-city participation in baseball and Major League Baseball is trying to address that with RBI and other programs.
GC: You are often seen with a book, which isn't all that common around a baseball clubhouse. What do you read?
BB: Everything. If someone recommends something, I'll read it. I'm always asking for suggestions.
GC: It must be hard to have time to do a lot of heavy reading during the season?
BB: Not really. With St. Louis last season, I read more than a dozen books. I've finished "Roots" and that has more than 900 pages.
GC: I understand that you are actually doing some writing yourself?
BB: I'm working on a book. I'm trying to incorporate a little of my life, but it's more about the importance of having a strong mindset. I'm trying to draw awareness to that.
GC: You reached the majors with the Cardinals last season after three years in the minors with Cleveland. Was it a dream come true?
BB: Yes and no. It was great, of course. But it was just one step in life. Hopefully there will be a lot more positive experiences ahead, in baseball and beyond baseball.
GC: You've already had a brief promotion to Atlanta. How is it playing in Gwinnett, which is only about 35 miles from Turner Field?
BB: I've enjoyed it. But being so close to the big leagues, you have to concentrate on what you are doing and not look down the road too much.
GC: You mentioned how much you enjoy traveling. How many countries have you visited?
BB: I've been to 12, including Australia, South Africa and a lot of European countries. But I'm just getting started. I've still got more than 200 to go and I want to always keep exploring.
GC: What is after that?
BB: Space and the moon.
GC: So you really would like to be an astronaut?
BB: When I'm passionate about something, I don't give up until I do it.