Former Holmes Community College Bulldog and minor leaguer and now turned author Xan Barksdale took a break from his busy schedule Friday to visit with his former coach Kenny Dupont and the Holmes Community College Bulldog baseball team.
Barksdale played for the Bulldogs in the 2001 and 2002 seasons, where he was a two-time All-State selection and All-Region after the 2002 season. At Holmes, he received his associate's degree and was a member of Phi Theta Kappa, an international honor society for community colleges.
After Holmes, he played two seasons at Ole Miss before earning his bachelor's degree. He spent time with the Atlanta Braves organization after his playing days at Ole Miss. He then moved into the coaching ranks at both Louisville and East Tennessee State University. He recently stepped aside from coaching to promote his book "Catching-101" and do speaking engagements on catching and baseball as a whole. His business, Xan Barksdale Baseball, is located in Johnson City, Tenn.
"I think giving back is really important," Barksdale said. "Because of my coaching career, I haven't been able to come back to Holmes as much as I wanted to over the past number of years but now that I have a little more free time, I plan to spend more time on campus and spend more time with the players who wear the same uniform that I used to wear and do as much as I can. I would like to help out in any way I can.
"I want to let them know Holmes is a great place to be," he said. "I'm proud of coming from here. I like to come back here. I think it's important to talk to those young guys."
Barksdale said coming to Holmes from Madison-Ridgeland Academy was one of the best decisions he's ever made. "It's an important time in any young man or woman's career or life as a whole when you come from a high school student to becoming an adult in the next few years," Barksdale said. "The Holmes campus in Goodman is where I did a lot of growing up.
"I came here, got a degree and played baseball for Coach Kenny Dupont, who has been one of the most instrumental male figures in my life," he said. "Other than my dad, he's one of the most important men I've been around. He helped me grow up and taught me a lot of lessons that have helped shape and mold me into the person I am today. We have a great relationship and talk regularly on the phone."
Writing a book of any kind never crossed Barksdale's mind until his personal journal kept growing with information that helped him in his playing and coaching careers.
"Then I looked up and thought I had too much information not to share with other people so I decided to organize it as a collection and as a book," Barksdale said. "With that I've really enjoyed sharing my knowledge of baseball and catching specifically. So I've continued to make a few DVDs and produce other content, but it definitely started with Catching 101."
To promote his book, he spends his time at baseball conventions and clinics talking about his book along with other aspects of the game. Barksdale was one of the featured speakers at CatcherCon in Nashville in December.
One of Barksdale's videos "10 Rules for Catchers" features 10 things every young catcher should keep in mind including: hustle, improve every day, set examples, be the leader, have good body language, work to win the starting job every day, championships are the only goal, work harder than everyone else, take pride in the small things and love to win and hate to lose.
"Almost everything is related to your attitude, effort and hustle which is something every player can control every single day," Barksdale said. "Those are things I learned that I feel are important. How you react to the circumstances is what speaks highly of you and what it speaks about you. These are the things the fans in stands notice and what I'd like to encourage the young players to do every time they get on the field."
Mental toughness is a huge part of being a successful baseball player, he said. "You are still going to have failure," Barksdale said. "Baseball is a game of failure and the key to having success is being able to minimize that and bounce back quickly."
A successful catcher has to have a lot of characteristics. "Number one you have to be a good leader," Barksdale said. "Everybody on the field is looking at you every single pitch so you have to have good body language. Everybody notices that and they see it and it affects them. You have to take control of the game and the pitcher.
"It's a very demanding physical job," he said. "It's hot in Mississippi and in the south. You'll have bumps and bruises. You have to be tough and want to get back there and get dirty."
There are a number of big league managers who were catchers during the playing careers. "I believe in major leagues so many catchers are being named managers of professional teams because of the inside knowledge they have in the game, and they get to see the game from a number of different angles," he said.
Barksdale also co-authored a book "Big League Nutrition" which is key to being a successful catcher or player in general. "One of the aspects of baseball I've always enjoyed is the working out aspect and the training part of it," Barksdale said. "I like being in the weight room and taking care of my body and pushing it beyond its limits. One of the things that dictates how far you can take your body is the food you put inside of it and how you treat it."
The book offers suggestions on what you should eat and should not eat. It helps them get their bodies in the shape they want it to be in, he said.