Baseball trainer important to program

He isn't in uniform and hardly ever appears during a positive situation but measuring his importance to the program is impossible.

Tony Barnett is in his second season as athletic trainer for the Rebel baseball team, and his duties span from serious injury and rehabilitation to simply keeping the players comfortable on a daily basis.

"If it is something medical, then we are usually the first people they come to," Barnett said. "We are contacted for anything from an upset stomach to a tooth ache. Technology has improved so the players can just text message me if something is up. We are there for whatever ails them."

Barnett, who received his undergraduate degree from Valdosta State and postgraduate degree from The Citadel, can always be seen at the ready during every Ole Miss practice and game, but his most important task comes behind the scenes.

"I am always at the Starnes training room by eight in the morning," Barnett said. "It is easier to do rehab in the morning because it is one-on-one time. The guys can come in and not be as rushed because treating them at practice is on the fly."

Some treatments are quick and easy, while others are long drawn out processes. Barnett guided Pitcher Justin Cryer throughout his entire Tommy John rehab. The right-hander was definitely impressed.

"He was a big part of me coming back because he knows the game, played the game and been around for a while," Cryer said. "I was at an advantage by having Tony around."

Barnett's experience just surpassed a decade as he spent the first nine years of his career with the men's basketball team at Appalachian State University. They are a group that visited Oxford earlier this year during the first round of the NIT Tournament.

"I knew all of the starters and most of the coaching staff," Barnett said. "It was really nice to see them doing well. It is hard not to root for a team that you have been around for a long time."

Barnett has only spent a short stint in Oxford so far, but head Mike Bianco's opinion of him couldn't be much higher.

"He is just tremendous and does a great job," Bianco said. "We have always been fortunate during my time here to have great training staffs, but he is the best as far as not only diagnosing the problem but also putting them through the rehab. Tony does a great job of getting them back on the field but also taking the players' health into consideration."

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