Aaron Barras arrived in Philadelphia with two bags of clothing and $300 in his name. He didn’t have much. Hurricane Katrina had destroyed the family home in Slidell.
“My car was in a tree,” he said.
Barras went to Philadelphia at the request of college baseball teammate Tim McIlvaine, now director of scouting for the Los Angeles Angels.
At the time, Barras had no intention of becoming a baseball coach. But once he started coaching, it put the Holy Cross graduate on a circuitous route to his high school alma mater as a baseball head coach. Sainte-Croix announced the hiring on Thursday.
“It’s kind of surreal,” said Barras, a 1998 graduate who pitched and played third base while in high school. “I am delighted to have the opportunity to return. I worked very hard for a very long time, traveled all over the country and learned as much as possible.
Barras, 41, has coached the past four seasons at Kenner Discovery, where he helped build the program from the ground up – playing a junior varsity season in 2019 before qualifying for the LHSAA playoffs for the first time. in 2021.
Against De La Salle this season, Kenner Discovery trailed 3-2 and charged in the seventh inning, but failed. Despite the loss, Barras saw this as a mark of progress due to how lopsided some losses were in previous seasons.
“Seeing how far young people have come as players and as people is something I’m most proud of,” Barras said.
Barras began coaching after his 2005 move to Philadelphia. But first he took a job in finance, something that gave him a salary but not much satisfaction. McIlvaine, whose father Joe was a former general manager of the San Diego Padres and New York Mets, introduced Barras to St. Joseph’s University baseball coach Shawn Pender, now vice president of the Cincinnati Reds player development.
Pender hired Barras as an unpaid volunteer assistant coach, meaning Barras needed a part-time job on the side. For this, he worked in a bank. After one season, Pender hired Barras full-time to coach pitchers and infielders. At that time, he was addicted to coaching.
“The first year, I fell in love with it,” he said. “It was amazing to work with the kids and to travel, to learn as much as possible.”
After his second season at St. Joseph’s, Barras became the head baseball coach at Episcopal Academy, a high school in Newton Square, Pennsylvania. There, the Churchmen went from two wins before Barras’ arrival to 12 wins in his first season and “18 or 20” meetings in each of the next three, he said.
There, 10 baseball players went on to play in college – six in Division I and four in other divisions.
He left the Episcopal Academy to oversee the Philadelphia Phillies Youth Baseball Academy, which ran a series of camps for kids ages 5 to 14. He did this until he returned home and took a job at Kenner Discovery.
Now at Holy Cross, where Barras replaced former coach Andy Cannizaro after a 12-24 season, Barras will follow an approach that has worked in other places.
“I worked hard, did things the right way,” said Barras, who kicked off his studies at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama. “Character is important to me. ‘Attitude and Effort’ will be what kids will hear over and over again.”
Barras graduated from Holy Cross more than two decades ago with no intention of coaching baseball. Now back in school, Barras will take an approach with him that he believes can turn the Tigers into regular winners.