After the tragic passing of women’s sporting and cross code pioneer Jacinda Barclay, her national Baseball teammate Amy McCann pays tribute to her mate, Barcs.
The Australian women’s baseball community is small at the best of times. So when a tragedy strikes, and when it is to someone of the stature of and as beloved as Jacinda Barclay, it hits everyone hard.
In life, there are people you meet who – quite often without even trying – make the world brighter and lighter.
Cinda, Barcy, but Barcs to me, was a leading example of such a person whose infectious attitude and outlook on life left you feeling better and happier.
I first played against Barcs at the 2006 Baseball Australia National Championships when she was just 15. Soon after, I had the privilege of taking the field with her at the 2008 World Cup when she made her Australian Team debut at only 17 years of age.
Getting to know her on and off the field certainly was a new experience! Barcs was like no other I had ever played with before, and in the twelve years I spent on the Australian team, I met no other like her. She was one of a kind – on and off the field.
Barcs was one of the most feared players on the diamond, which came from being one of the hardest workers on the training field. I still remember an Aussie Camp beep-test at Blacktown Olympic Park when—after all 30-odd other squad members had dropped out—but Barcs was still running, on her own, 15.1, 16.1, 17.1.
On the field, where do you start, where do you end? Fierce and fearless. One of the best to ever grace the mound, Barcs will no doubt go down as one of the greats of world baseball.
Boasting a long list of baseball accolades, Barcs took home countless National Championship medals with WA and NSW.
On the world stage, she repped the green and gold at five World Cups (2008-10-12-14-16) and was an integral part of Australia’s only two World Cup medals – 2010 silver and 2014 bronze.
In my opinion, her performance as a 19-year-old at the 2010 World Cup will go down as one of the best our sport has seen. Appearing in three games at that World Cup, she started for Australia in the memorable must-win second-round victory over Japan which was our first-ever win against the world champion outfit.
Just three days later, she threw a stunning seven-inning complete game in the semi-final against hometown heroes Venezuela in front of 20,000 fans. The win guided us to a spot in the gold medal final and secured our first-ever medal! It was nothing short of sheer brilliance and fittingly, she was chairlifted off the field on the shoulders of her teammates.
Just a few weeks ago I caught up with Barcs online and we reminisced over both her individual, and the team’s performances at this World Cup. It was so interesting to hear her perspective ten years on as to what was going through her teenage mind in that World Cup.
We spoke at length about the shooting, the three must win games just to make the semis, and that game against Venezuela.
She talked of a nice moment she shared with coach John Gaynor during the game after Venezuela rallied to tie it 2-2 in the second inning which sent the 20,000-strong home crowd ballistic.
She described how Johnny had come out to the mound and asked if she was ok. Barcs told him that she had prepared for everything except the fans (we had never played in front of more than maybe a thousand or two in the past and certainly not a home crowd cheering against you like this) so she just needed a minute to calm down.
She said in that moment, she looked around at all of us, knew we had her back, took a breath and was fine. From that moment on, she threw 5 shutout innings to silence the Venezuelan bats and the crowd.
I pressed her for a quote for the video about what her performance in this game meant to her, and she always brought it back to the team and the girls. It was never about her, it was always for the team.
Away from pitching, Barcs owned a mean bat and glove and she more than held her own in the field at national level. And us position players knew full well that she would have given us all a run for our money in any position she chose at a World Cup too! We always loved it when on the rare occasions the pitchers were allowed to take batting practice before a game, she would make sure we were all watching so she could show us how she could rake!
When she wasn’t dominating on the mound, Barcs was a champion teammate in the dugout. On the top step cheering her team, she was the first out of the dugout to high five, fill up water bottles, to chart, or simply pat someone on the back – just because.
Away from the diamond between games, she had a way of keeping everything and everyone chilled and relaxed. Everyone had a nickname, or for some a special people she sung your name! I can still hear her Sound of Music-esque yodel calling for our team EO “Aaaaaaannnnnne Mmmmmmmaaaaareeeeeeeeeee”. And if she wasn’t beatboxing her way up and down the corridors at the team hotel, poking her head in every room to see if you were “all good in the hood”, she was dancing.
In a treasured memory following the 2010 World Cup shooting, Barcs spent hotel lockdown teaching dance routines and sneaking us into the hotel’s Zumba classes to keep our minds away from what was going on in the Venezuelan capital.
Away from baseball, and in stunning parallel to her all-conquering achievements on the diamond, Barcs excelled whenever and wherever she set herself.
From championing the cause in the early days of the LFL for the Sydney Surge, and in the USA with the Chicago Bliss, she most recently took her energy and skills to star with the GWS Giants in the AFLW.
And to think, so many of these achievements came after being told she may never play sport again after breaking both of her legs giving another sport a crack – motorcycling!
But what is so great about her cross-sport achievements is that so many people across Australia and the world have been able to share in her journey and be inspired by her.
Barcs was a shining example of a gifted athlete who showed women and girls all over Australia they could achieve their dreams with a few goals, some passion, lots of determination, and even more hard work.
Whether you had the privilege of calling her a friend, sharing the field as a teammate, being challenged as her rival, or being able to marvel at her skills as a fan watching on tv or from the grandstands, she left a lasting impact on everyone.
Barcs simply had time for anyone and everyone. She was always looking for ways to make others happy, had time for a chat, a joke, and would make sure to leave a smile on your face, even in the most challenging of times.
But Barcs had her own challenging times, and with help of those around her, she tried to overcome them. But unfortunately for her, it just became too much.
We have all been shattered by her leaving this world. We are numb, we are confused. We will all grapple with regret, with sadness, even with anger. It is inevitable.
We feel guilty because we wonder what if? Could we have done more? Could we have made her world brighter and lighter like she did for us for so many years?
But we need to channel the happiness, remember the amazing things, the stupid things, the classic things she did that made her unique.
And we need to make sure we share these stories, these memories and moments with our friends, family and anyone so that she can live on.
We will miss you dearly Barcs, but you will forever remain in our hearts and minds.
Rest In Peace.
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