Baseball: Naperville Central's Barczi socks 13 HRs in power-packed junior season
Coming into the spring, Colin Barczi wasn't entirely sure how cautious opposing pitchers would be when he stepped into the batter's box.
Turns out they weren't nearly careful enough.
Despite being pitched around to the tune of 28 walks, the Naperville Central junior still found a way to do maximum damage with his bat, as more than half of his hits this season went for extra bases. That production at the plate included 13 home runs, eight doubles, four triples, 31 RBIs, a batting average of .482 and an eye-popping on-base percentage of .619.
Those numbers coupled with his defensive acumen, as well as leading Naperville Central to a second-consecutive 20-win campaign and DuPage Valley Conference title, has earned the catcher the 2022 Daily Herald DuPage County All-Area Captain nod.
"I had to be ready every single at-bat," said Barczi when asked about his mentality this season after a sophomore campaign where he hit .435 with seven homers and 34 RBIs and then committed to Vanderbilt. "I worked all offseason on not chasing pitches. If they tried to get me out on pitcher's pitches, I tried not to swing. I wanted to hit the strikes and leave the balls.
"I really tried to attack early in the count. A lot of pitchers try to get that first pitch over; so I was always attacking early. But if I was taking walks, my third and fourth hitters (Michael Boyce and Andrew Gallegos) were there to back me up. They were always driving me in."
Naperville Central coach Mike Stock said that Barczi was as good as advertised, which in his mind meant that he was even better because of how lofty of a bar that was set for him coming in.
"You couldn't have taken in one of our games this year and not come away fully impressed with Colin and the way that he plays," Stock said. "He's at a different level then most of the athletes in the area and that is evident every time you watch him swing the bat and receive the ball. He is a gifted, next-level athlete; arm strength, speed, his bat-to-ball. He doesn't miss his pitch but in the next breath, he's not afraid to. Colin is not afraid to let the barrel go so there is no weak contact. There is just a great simplicity and confidence about his approach at the plate.
"To his credit, pitchers tried to be as sharp as possible when they faced him and he still made them pay. He's the most dominant player I've been around since being at the varsity level and that's about 13 years. And we've had some great players and obviously have played against some great players."
As good as his offensive exploits were, that only tells half the story. Along with a rocket of an arm, Barczi also called all of the pitches for the Redhawks this year, something that is becoming a rarity.
"I take a lot of pride in it (in my catching)," said the two-time DVC Player of the Year. "I've worked very hard and it's finally paying off. But I can't go without thanking my pitchers, they made my life so much better back there. Having some of the best pitchers in the conference makes my job stress-free. I could just do my thing back there."
Growing up in a baseball family full of catchers, it should come as no surprise that Barczi ventured behind the plate as soon as he started with the sport at a young age. His older brother Christian played at Naperville North and collegiately at Valparaiso while his dad Scott was in the minor league system of the Pittsburgh Pirates after going to Northwestern.
"Right when I started with baseball, I was a catcher," said Barczi, who began playing in the Naperville Little League before joining the Naperville Renegades and now the Cangelosi Sparks travel programs. "I've always loved it. You are a part of every single play. That to me was a lot more fun than standing out in the outfield when I was in Little League, I just couldn't do that so I stuck with catching.
"I went to all of my brother's games, I just loved the sport so much. And my dad is still my biggest coach. Everything I've learned is mostly from him, from a young age, he taught me everything I know."
Soon enough, he will be following in their footsteps when he continues his career at the Division I level for a Commodores program that won the College World Series in both 2014 and 2019.
"Vanderbilt has always been my dream school," Barczi said. "It's a great academic school to go along with the baseball program. I've gotten to go and walk around the school and it's everything I ever wanted in a college and in a campus. I loved every part of it."
But before heading off for the next chapter of his baseball career, Barczi still has a summer left with the Sparks and one final season in a Naperville Central uniform.
"We've enjoyed the heck out of him these last two years," said Stock, who made special mention of Barczi's working relationship with pitching coach Geoff Zimmermann, "and we are excited to have another season with him. He is someone that has a connection with every kid on our team. He was a captain for us as a junior and while he won't be the person you hear being loud, you will see him connecting and working with every kid on our team. He cares about his teammates and he handles himself in a way that they all know that. He is a humble, not look at me guy. But at the same time, he won't take a back seat. He believes in his abilities and that is a wonderful combination."