Valdosta Daily Times

July 20, 2013

A fast ball, a perfect fit

Man finds team to match his love for softball, NASCAR

Samuel D. Logan
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Some people love NASCAR. Some people love softball. In rare cases like this, however, you have people who love both. James Barrett of Valdosta is a prime example of this.

While growing up, Barrett played softball in various places around Valdosta, including the Lowndes High School Vikings and parks and recreation leagues across the city.

Barrett has also played for various church leagues in addition to park leagues. He is a pitcher and is known for his slow curve ball. In one of his most memorable games, Barrett pitched a no hitter.

“I had no idea I even had done it,” said Barrett. “The umpire came up to the mound after the game and asked did I know what I did. I said no. He then told me I had pitched a softball no-hitter.”

In addition to softball, Barrett has always been a NASCAR fan.

He began racing about 20 years ago. Some of the tracks Barrett has raced include ones in Albany and Cordele. Currently, he does not race anymore.

“Racing costs too much,” said Barrett, “the tires, brakes and just maintenance in general was a lot to keep up with, but I still love the sport.”

These stories mostly represent some of his past accomplishments.

Barrett is now the coach of an 18-and-up softball league in Valdosta. This is not just any ordinary team. They are sponsored by the one and only NASCAR legend, Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Last year, Barrett went to Tallahassee, Fla., to buy a car, and stumbled across a “Dale Earnhardt Look-a-Like Contest.” Barrett has been told on numerous occasions that he resembles Earnhardt so he entered the contest and walked away the winner.

He got to meet Earnhardt Jr. and also met Andrew DeWerff, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s right-hand man. After discussing softball and NASCAR, DeWerff offered to sponsor an adult league softball team for Barrett.  

Normally, it is unusual to get a softball sponsorship, especially from a NASCAR driver, but in this case, it became a match made in heaven.

The actual sponsorship helps players on Barrett’s team pay entrance fees and also the team uniforms. The sponsorship overall helps guys out that want to play softball, but can’t afford it financially, be able to still play and have fun.

“You go play it as a fun game. When I go out on the field, I look at the batter, and I start laughing. Then he starts laughing. It’s all fun and games.”

This was the team’s first year together. The league is made up of 15-20 teams, and each team plays the others once until the playoffs. In their league, they came in third in the final standings.

The big picture isn’t always to win the big trophy, but the thrill of playing.

“A lot of it’s bragging rights involved. They beat us last time, so we gonna beat them this time,” said Barrett.

People from all over South Georgia make up the team, including players from Cook County and Thomasville.

Barrett loves to coach, but was quick to say that if he did not coach, he would always be willing to play softball.

“It’s always good to have a pitcher who can throw a strike,” said Barrett.

In the past, Barrett has coached the Valdosta Red Sox softball team in addition to coaching at the local Boys and Girls Club.    

You can join this league and others by visiting Valdosta Parks and Recreation at www.vlpra.com