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York County native signs with Atlanta Braves, will try to follow his father into majors

ROB ROSE
717-505-5418/@robrosesports
  • Antonio Barranca signed with the Atlanta Braves as an undrafted free agent.
  • His father, German Barranca, played four seasons in the majors.
  • Antonio was raised in York County, but attended Calvert Hall College High School.

When Antonio Barranca and his older brother, Roberto Barranca, headed to the mall last Wednesday, it wasn’t just an average shopping trip.

The York Township brothers were on a special expedition on this day, looking for a specific item that would likely be the only one of its kind purchased at the York Galleria that day.

The pair struck out in their first attempt at Champs Sports. The sports apparel chain didn’t have what they needed, so the Barranca brothers crossed the mall to check Sports Unlimited.

There it was.

Antonio asked the cashier if they had any more options, but there was just one. It didn’t matter to Antonio though. He was just glad to find something to commemorate the biggest moment of his young life. 

He walked out of the store with a smile on his face and his new Atlanta Braves hat, while the cashier had no idea he just sold a hat to the newest member of the MLB organization.

Antonio, a York County native and 2020 graduate of Calvert Hall College High School in Maryland, signed with the Braves last week as an undrafted free agent.

Antonio Barranca, 18, right, and his brother Roberto Barranca, 20, both of York Township, often work out in the batting cage at York Township Park in York Township, shown Thursday, June 18, 2020. Antonio Barranca recently agreed to a professional baseball contract with the Atlanta Braves. Dawn J. Sagert photo

“It was crazy,” Antonio said of the mall trip with his brother, who is a rising junior utility player at Juniata College. “It was just a cool moment. I’m just happy to get this one.”

Born to ball: The joy Antonio felt after he signed his first pro baseball contract last week was years in the making. His father, German Barranca, spent parts of four seasons in the majors with the Kansas City Royals and Cincinnati Reds from 1979-1982.

Antonio started playing baseball when he could walk and, despite a desire to play football and basketball as a kid, there was only one true option for the sport that had his heart.

“It was baseball all the way,” Antonio said. “I played other sports, but baseball was my first love.”

Growing up in the Dallastown Area School District as the son of a major leaguer, Antonio said it didn’t create a real burden of expectations on him as he began his career. It wasn’t until he was 12 or 13 when he started to realize his dad knew coaches at games they attended and grasped that he was connected to MLB.

“Honestly, I didn’t think it was too much pressure,” Antonio said. “I kind of just wanted to make my own path, follow lessons from my dad and play professional baseball.”

Germán Barranca, of York Township, a former Major League Baseball player, pitches the ball to his son, Antonio Barranca, 18, in the batting cage at York Township Park in York Township, Thursday, June 18, 2020. Antonio Barranca recently agreed to a professional baseball contract with the Atlanta Braves. Dawn J. Sagert photo

German said he always knew his son had the talent to play professional baseball, but it takes more than that to make it to the big leagues. After a teammate of Antonio’s started getting scouted, and in turn so did Antonio, the pair had a conversation about what it would take to achieve his dream.

“You can have talent, but it’s more than that,” German said. “You have to have it in your heart. You have to have the goal that you want to go to the highest level and that makes you work harder.” 

Never a doubt: After his senior high school season at Calvert Hall was canceled just three games in because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Antonio continued to weight train in his basement and on the baseball field by his house. Although the 2020 MLB Draft was shortened from its usual 40 rounds to five because of the pandemic and an ongoing battle between MLB owners and the league’s players association, Antonio didn’t waver in his desire to pursue a pro contract.

Antonio Barranca, 18, of York Township, works out in the batting cage at York Township Park in York Township, Thursday, June 18, 2020. Barranca recently agreed to a professional baseball contract with the Atlanta Braves. Dawn J. Sagert photo

He was committed to play college baseball at Gulf Coast State College in Florida, but held out hope that an offer would come his way.

“That was my main goal,” Antonio said. “I knew I had the ability, it was just a matter of putting a couple things together and showing my skills in front of the right people.” 

The draft came and went and Antonio’s name wasn’t called. Then came the days and nights of waiting for the phone to ring with an offer from a team. Antonio tried to keep himself calm by working out and playing video games to get his mind off baseball.

“It was definitely stressful because you don't know what is going to happen,” Antonio said. “I just tried to keep a calm head and thought to myself, ‘I can only control what I can control.’ Luckily everything worked out the way it was supposed to.”

The Braves called on Sunday and Antonio signed his contract as a catcher on Tuesday. Antonio wasn’t the only one to share the feelings of excitement and relief. German was overjoyed after the beginning of his son’s pro baseball journey officially began.

“It was just overwhelming to really believe that it came through,” German said. “We were just waiting and waiting. I knew he was talented, but you just don't know what’s going to go on. We were just ecstatic that this happened for him. This is just the beginning.” 

His second home: When Atlanta called, Antonio knew it was going to be the team he chose. Along with the positive reviews about the Braves’ organization, which includes the No. 8 minor minor league system according to mlb.com, the city has a special meaning to Antonio.

For the past five seasons he has spent parts of the summer in the city for Perfect Game scouting tournaments and lived in Atlanta for two months last summer to play for the Atlanta Blue Jays team which has produced a number of MLB players, including Braves pitcher Touki Toussaint and Baltimore Orioles outfielder Cedric Mullins.

Antonio has toured the team’s newly renamed Truist Park and still wears the size medium Braves shirt he bought years ago that no longer fits his 6-foot, 2-inch, 215-pound frame.

“It was kind of a surreal moment,” Antonio said wearing his newly purchased hat and ill-fitting T-shirt. “There were other teams interested, but when I got the call from the Braves it was an exciting moment. It’s just kind of like going back to my second home.”

Antonio Barranca, 18, of York Township, anticipates a pitch from his father, former Major League Baseball player Germán Barranca while practicing in the batting cage at York Township Park in York Township, Thursday, June 18, 2020. Antonio Barranca recently agreed to a professional baseball contract with the Atlanta Braves. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Antonio doesn’t know when exactly he will be reporting to a Braves facility to start training, but is anxiously waiting for a chance to do so. He said he will join the Braves' Gulf Coast League team in Florida and is training six days per week to be in shape when the season starts.

He’s waited for this opportunity since he started to play baseball, once he learned how to walk, so what’s another few weeks or months? Once known as the son of a former MLB player, Antonio has started his own journey. He knows that while the joy that came with his first pro deal was amazing, to make sure he gets to sign another one he'll have to train even harder.

“It definitely felt great. All the hard work paid off,” Antonio said. “But the work is not finished, the hard work is just beginning. I’m just ready to get to work whenever that is and start playing. Whenever we get the call, I’m ready.”

Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.