By Jordan Hall
For John Barr, it all became real in one moment. The New York Mets front office of Frank Cashen and Joe McIlvaine were discussing a potential trade for Montreal’s Gary Carter in 1984 and a sudden feeling struck Barr. They weren’t trading their favorite baseball cards — this was Major League Baseball, a dream of all dreams.
“I’m sitting there, listening and realizing that they’re talking about the real thing, not just baseball cards,” Barr said. “And I thought this was something that, gosh, I would love to do.”
On that day, Barr, a Rider alumnus, was in the midst of interviewing his way into professional baseball, a game he had loved since childhood. Now, the former Bronc has been inducted into the Professional Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame, has two World Series rings and is currently traveling the world searching for today’s future stars of the MLB.
The 1979 Rider graduate is the Special Assistant to the General Manager and Scouting for the San Francisco Giants, an organization he was instrumental in leading to the Fall Classic title last season. Barr’s position came to fruition all because he took an opportunity to live his dreams.
Following his playing career at Rider and earning his bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Commerce, Barr stayed in the game by coaching at the collegiate level. While attending the college coaches convention in Houston, he took a job away from the diamond.
“While I was down there, I actually walked into the Merrill Lynch office and truth be told, was offered a job,” Barr said in a telephone interview. “I decided to take it with the idea that I’d be able to make some money to be able to go and get my Master’s. I was down in Houston trying to gain a graduate assistant position, but one thing led to another and I ended up accepting this position at Merrill Lynch.”
Houston provided nothing but good fortune for Barr’s future. The Haddonfield, N.J., resident spent four years in Texas, making a great living. He met his wife and eventually came upon his chance at his lifelong goal.
Barr was introduced to McIlvaine through a mutual friend and lo and behold, was offered a position to work for the Mets, a major move with uncertainty, but at an opportune time.
“I cut my salary by two-thirds,” Barr said. “I had just been married, but I really had no debt, I didn’t have any children at the time, and that’s the time to chase your dreams. I still feel that Rider was a platform for that. I felt like when I went to Rider, the education I got made you feel that you could compete anywhere, from a business standpoint.”
When Barr entered his first gig in the big leagues, his education at Rider proved to be vital. With the Mets, Barr served as an administrative assistant to the minor leagues and scouting, which gave him duties such as handling the expenses, books, budgets and getting involved with salary negotiations.
“My time with the Mets was kind of spread between baseball and business,” Barr said. “I don’t think that I could be doing what I’m doing now if I hadn’t had some of the background that I have from the education I got at Rider.”
Barr has bounced around from different positions and teams, and now he’s found a World Champion fit with the Giants. His biggest contribution to San Francisco’s World Series crown was drafting catcher Buster Posey, the 2010 National League Rookie of the Year and star-in-the-making.
Barr possesses a keen eye for talent, and when he’s scouting, he evaluates a player by accessing many traits. According to Barr, character is just as important as talent.
“It’s not just about how they’re dealing with success, it’s also how they’re dealing when they have failure,” Barr said. “We try to see guys over a period of time. One of things we emphasize is, if it’s a two-sport athlete, go out and see that player in another sport because you might get an insight on him that you normally wouldn’t get with baseball.”
With the joy of working in the game he adores, Barr must deal with being away from his wife and four children on a consistent basis. His family, though, has made sacrifices, something he deeply appreciates.
“It’s a grind, but it’s a passion,” Barr said. “I have a wonderful family. I’m very, very fortunate and I’ve been blessed.”