Hattiesburg's Barham gets more responsibility

By CAMAL PETRO,

Hattiesburg’s Joe Hartfield is giving more responsibilities to one of his assistant coaches this season.

A long-time assistant under Hartfield, Brent Barham, has been promoted to be Hattiesburg’s associate head coach, giving him more responsibilities inside the Tigers’ program. Barham’s role of providing detailed input regarding in-game decisions has increased the last three to four years, but now he’ll have more contributions with every decision inside the Hattiesburg baseball program.

“A couple of years ago, (Hartfield) was telling me what I needed to do as a bench coach,” Barham said. “He said, ‘I want you to constantly shoot ideas out to me. I might shoot down nine out of 10, but keep shooting because that one idea might be a game-saver type thing.’ So that’s what I’ve really done the last few years.”

In Game 2 of last May’s state championship series, Hattiesburg had a chance to sweep the series with a 10-run rule in the fourth inning. It was Barham’s idea to pinch-hit Jerry Burkett, who hit in the 10th run to crown the Tigers state champions.

“That was a pretty good (idea),” Hartfield said. “It was all his call. He made a lot more throughout the season, so it’s hard to sit here and think of them all.”

While Barham has shouted out ideas for years now, slowly, the two long-time Hattiesburg baseball coaches have started to be on the same page with nearly every in-game call.

It’s not a secret that Hartfield has been dealing with health issues the last few years, and he’s missed games in the past because of his health. The Hattiesburg skipper was still very much involved when he missed practice or games, but Barham and the other assistant coaches had to step up.

“Especially with me being sick last year, he already just naturally had to work into that role,” Hartfield said. “To some degree, it just happened. He’s involved with a lot of critical decisions now concerning the program.”

The move will also help Hartfield groom Barham for a head-coaching gig in the future. Eddie Easily, a former player and coach under Hartifled, received the Meridian head-coaching position last June.

Hartfield and Barham go back further than just sharing the Hattiesburg bench. Hartfield coached Barham in Dixie Youth baseball, then Barham coached under Larry Knight at Hattiesburg before Knight moved to Sumrall and Hartfield took over. There was a moment when Barham thought he would be replaced with new assistant coaches, but Hartfield retained his former little leaguer and the two have been inseparable since.

Barham is enjoying the newfound pressure with his new coaching role, too.

“I’m loving it,” Barham said. “It keeps me in the game. I love the players and I love constantly critiquing them and getting them better. You have to realize, I’m learning from the best.”