Firebird pitcher Nathan Barnes brings the heat

Arcadia pitcher Nathan Barnes aspires to attain a triple-digit fastball. Barnes will attend Longwood University on scholarships beginning this fall.

By Mark Moring

The 100-mph fastball — it’s every pitcher’s dream … and every batter’s nightmare.

A ball traveling that fast takes about 375-400 milliseconds to reach the plate. That’s about the same amount of time it takes to blink your eye. Literally, it’s blink and you’ll miss.

The very idea makes Nathan Barnes light up with excitement. Barnes, a senior pitcher at Arcadia High School, has his sights set on that elite level.

“Triple digits,” says the 6-foot-5-inch right-hander. “That’s the goal.”

The reigning Player of the Year in the Eastern Shore District, Barnes won’t hit that mark in this, his final high school season. His current fastball tops out at 88-90 mph, but he believes he can hit 95 before long — perhaps this season, or maybe at Longwood University, where he’s heading this fall on a combination of athletic and academic scholarships.

Arcadia, which won the district title last spring and advanced to the third round of the state playoffs, is off to a 2-2 start this season, and Barnes is 1-1 on the mound.

Barnes’ pitching prowess has been evident for years, ever since he first took the mound as a freshman in 2021 in a varsity game against Northampton.

“I was nervous when they handed me the ball,” he says now.

He didn’t show it. That afternoon, he threw a no-hitter and struck out 17 in an 11-0 victory.

“I was pretty surprised and happy,” says Barnes. “But after the game was over, I felt super confident and thought that every time I got the ball that season, I was going to dominate.”

Indeed he did, going 3-1 as a freshman with a 1.66 ERA. For his high school career, Barnes is 10-5 with two saves. Last spring, he went 4-3 with a save, despite being hampered by a hip injury early in the season. But he came on strong late in the season and in summer ball, playing for the Delmarva Aces, a traveling team based in Berlin, Md.

Barnes, who plays first base when he’s not pitching, is also a threat at the plate; last year, he hit .475 with 24 RBIs. At Longwood, Barnes will focus solely on pitching.

Arcadia Coach Mike Hatcher says Barnes is “one of the hardest working kids I have had the privilege to coach.” After two-hour practices at school, Barnes goes home, gets a snack, and works out for another 90 minutes with his brother Dalton, a sophomore and also one of Arcadia’s top players.

Barnes says he got that work ethic from his parents, admiring their own commitment to work and taking care of the family. His dad, Rob, works with the Virginia State Police, and his mom, Angela, with the Virginia Department of Agriculture.

Barnes carries that work ethic into the classroom, too, where he’s ranked in the top 10 of his class. He plans to major in business administration or finance at Longwood.

When he’s not playing for the Firebirds or the Delmarva Aces, Barnes enjoys ping pong, foosball, swimming, kayaking, and fishing, particularly with his grandfather on the Potomac River.

Hatcher describes Barnes as “an old soul” who is “very cerebral in his conversations.”

“Nathan doesn’t expect anything that he doesn’t earn,” Hatcher says. “He understands that he controls his effort and his attitude. He ‘gets’ it.”

“An old soul? I think he means I’m very down-to-earth,” Barnes says. “Compared to my generation, I don’t normally use terms they do. I kind of use the terms my grandma and grandpa use.”

Here’s betting grandpa never dreamed of a triple-digit fastball. But Barnes just might hit that highlight someday.

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