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Milligan's Barnett seasoned despite first head coaching gig

Douglas Fritz • Jun 7, 2019 at 6:11 PM

Player-coach wasn’t a tag carried by Skyler Barnett in high school and college, but perhaps it should have been.

That’s because Barnett — who was recently chosen to lead the baseball program at Milligan College — was learning the coaching ropes during his playing days.

“My dad was a coach in Pony ball in Johnson City, and I saw how that worked out,” said Barnett, who is 29 years old. “And I had great relationships with my coaches, like Charlie Baxter at Unicoi County. I admired what the coaches went through and what they did. I respected how they went about their business. I thought it was enjoyable to see them work.”

After graduating from Unicoi County in 2008, Barnett played at East Tennessee State University. He graduated in 2012, and quickly landed a spot as a graduate assistant at Lincoln Memorial University.

Barnett went on to coach at Austin Peay and Carson-Newman before returning to ETSU as a member of Joe Pennucci’s staff. This past season, Barnett was an assistant at Walters State Community College.

“I’ve been around the block a little bit, five schools in seven years,” said Barnett.

Mark Fox, vice president for student development and athletics at Milligan, decided Barnett was the right fit for the Buffaloes.

“I thank him for the opportunity he has given me,” said Barnett.

Taking over as head coach means added responsibility.

“I will have to shoulder a little bit bigger load,” said Barnett. “But you don’t have to change who you are because of a title change.”

Barnett has recruiting experience, so he should hit the ground running in that department for Milligan.

“I had some trust handed over to me from previous coaches,” said Barnett. “I had to give the thumbs up or thumbs down on guys.”

Milligan finished 20-26 last season, giving up 54 runs in its final four games. But Barnett said he doesn’t look at Milligan’s program based on last year’s tough times.

“I see the program has a long tradition,” he said. “There have been too many good people at Milligan. There’s a tradition of pumping out good people. It goes back to coaches like Nathan Meade and Danny Clark. Moving forward I would like to continue that. I would like to be able to uphold a tradition that produces local talent and young men of character, and hope to find ways to win games along the way.”

Barnett said the roster will determine how his team plays. But he said he likes to put pressure on the defense, and make the opponents play well.

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