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Narducci: No surprise Barbara belongs in South Jersey Baseball HOF

Dan Barbara has enjoyed baseball success at a variety of levels, but his brief flirtation with Major League baseball draws the most interest.

Dan Barbara has enjoyed baseball success at a variety of levels, but his brief flirtation with Major League baseball draws the most interest.

Barbara will be among seven inductees Saturday to the South Jersey Baseball Hall of Fame during the 56th annual Hot Stovers Baseball Club of South Jersey anniversary dinner. It is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Masso's Crystal Manor in Glassboro.

"It's a great surprise that I am receiving this honor," Barbara said earlier this week at Tri-State Elite Baseball and Softball Academy, the training facility that he owns in Washington Township.

It actually shouldn't come as a surprise.

Barbara accumulated his best memories when he played for the Phillies in spring training in 1995 as part of their replacement team.

The 1994 season ended with a players' strike and was never completed. The players still hadn't come to terms the following spring.

Barbara and his good friend, the late Pete Conlin, were coaching at the time at Camden County College. Barbara served as the head coach and Conlin the pitching coach.

The late Bill Conlin, then a Daily News writer and father of Pete, was friends with Phillies manager Jim Fregosi. One day Fregosi called the home and Pete answered.

Pete told Fregosi if he needed any players that he and Barbara would volunteer.

Fregosi came down to watch Conlin throw and Barbara hit at Camden County College. The only problem was, it was raining and Barbara never got to hit.

"I thought that would be the end, but I got my chance, Barbara said.

Playing first base by then, Barbara lasted throughout spring training and didn't get cut until Major League players returned just before the regular season was to begin.

Barbara's biggest accomplishment was going 3 for 4 with two home runs and three RBIs during an 8-7 loss to the Cincinnati Reds in Plant City, Fla.

What made the achievement more notable was that Barbara, a switch hitter, belted his home runs from both sides of the plate.

"It was probably my most memorable moment," he said.

Yet, Barbara isn't heading to the Hall of Fame based on one spring training session. He was a second-team Inquirer All-South Jersey third baseman as a senior at Washington Township in 1987, batting .351. (The Inquirer's first-team All-South Jersey third baseman was Pemberton's Ed Smith, who would later play in the Super Bowl for the Atlanta Falcons.)

Barbara earned a baseball scholarship to Old Dominion. As a freshman in college he often started against righthanded pitchers, but since he batted lefthanded, he often sat against southpaws.

So Barbara changed that during the summer. He taught himself how to switch hit.

"I was tired of being platooned," he said.

Barbara had his best season as a sophomore, batting .310. His final two years were plagued by injuries, but he said playing Division I college baseball was a great experience.

After that Barbara became part of a South Jersey men's league dynasty with the Washington Township-based Dr. Connor in the Tri-County Men's League.

He played on the team from 1988 until 2005. During that time Dr. Connor won eight titles and played in four other championship games. Barbara, Pete Conlin and Dave Koerner were the cornerstone players on those teams.

"We were definitely a powerhouse," said Barbara, who was playing in an over-35 league as recently as 2014.

Now, Barbara, 46, is teaching others the game he loves at his academy.

He has gotten so much from the game, and his HOF induction will be a humbling experience.

"South Jersey is a pretty big area and I have watched, coached and played against a lot of great players," Barbara said. "To now be included in this group is a great honor."

And one that he earned from excelling on a variety of levels, with lifelong memories accumulated each step of the way.