Former Oxford standout, Ole Miss pitcher Jason Barber doesn’t plan to ‘look back at all’ after giving up baseball

Published 12:18 pm Friday, June 23, 2017

There was a time Jason Barber genuinely loved playing baseball, but the love is gone.

So the former Oxford High All-American and Ole Miss pitcher made the decision to give up baseball after just one season with the Rebels. He’ll remain a student at Ole Miss where he’ll focus on pursuing an engineering degree.

More than a week has passed since he officially walked away from the game he called his “first love,” but there aren’t any regrets for Barber, who recently spoke to the EAGLE about his decision.

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“I don’t plan to look back at all,” Barber said. “I really just plan to focus on school and move forward from there. Some smaller (junior colleges) have reached out since they found out, but I told them as of right now I’m not interested in playing baseball anymore.”

Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco conducted exit interviews with each player in the days after the Rebels found out they weren’t going to play in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011. Barber said he took another week to let the disappointment of the season wear off, but it didn’t change the way he felt. After talking with his parents, Barber met with his coach again to inform Bianco of his decision.

“I went in to Coach B and explained everything like how I fell out of love and didn’t want to waste his time anymore and if I wasn’t going to be able to give 110 percent, I didn’t need to be out there wasting his time,” Barber said. “That’s what Ole Miss baseball is founded around is you’ve got to go out and you’ve got to give everything you have each and every day, and I wasn’t able to do that.

“I didn’t love the game like I used to anymore. My love for it just kind of faded.”

Barber was buried on the depth chart during his freshman season at Ole Miss as the 6-foot, 190-pound right-hander allowed five hits and three runs (two earned) in just three innings of relief, but he said the lack of playing time had nothing to do with his decision. Even toward the end of a stellar high school career at Oxford — one that included 35 wins, a 1.25 earned run average in 281 innings, a zero ERA during his junior season, back-to-back MHSAA Class 5A championships and two Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year awards — Barber questioned his love for the game.

Making the transition to the college level only confirmed his feelings.

“I guess once I got to college and figured out it’s more than high school … I’ve always been told that it’s a job in college, and I really figured out that it is a job,” Barber said. “It’s way more time-consuming than high school, so considering the fact I kind of lost the love for it, it really hit me once I got to college that I didn’t love it like I used to. I’m not going to say I didn’t have fun out there, but it wasn’t just the fun that I wanted to have while I was playing the game.”

That’s not to say Barber didn’t have some fun moments in his career. Turning in that spotless ERA over 78 innings in 2015 with the Chargers, who finished one win shy of the first undefeated season in school history that year, and scoring the winning run in extra innings as a pinch hitter against Southern Miss on April 4 are at the top of the list.

“That’s not something too many pitchers get to do,” Barber said.

But as strange as it sounds, Barber said he’s ready for life without baseball. He’s in the process of changing his major to engineering from business and said he plans to take intersession classes so he doesn’t fall too far behind on the coursework.

The ultimate goal, Barber said, is to be a civil engineer.

“It’s weird to think about, but at the same time, it’s a relief because now I’m going to pursue engineering, so I won’t be working a job that’s not really what I love to do,” he said. “Now I’ll be able to go after a job that I really do love, so that’s what’s most important to me right now.”