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Conversations with the Herd: Addison Barger

By: Brian Frank

Addison Barger has been a key member of the Bisons’ lineup since the day he arrived at Triple-A late in the 2022 season. His first Triple-A hit was an RBI single in the 10th inning of his first game to give the Bisons a 4-3 walk-off win over the Rochester Red Wings. He then hit .355 with three home runs during the final eight games of the 2022 season. Last season, an elbow injury caused him to miss significant time – and he still managed to post a .756 OPS in 88 games.

This season, Barger is having another big year at the plate. Heading into the Bisons’ six-game series with Worcester, he’s slashing .265/.384/.488 with eight home runs in 47 games with the Herd this season. He also realized a lifelong dream earlier this season when he made his major-league debut.

Barger has been a fixture in the middle of the Bisons' lineup. Photo Credit: Brian Frank, The Herd Chronicles

He received word of his promotion to the Blue Jays in a phone call from Bisons manager Casey Candaele. The late-night call triggered a whirlwind 24-hour period that Barger will never forget.

“Casey called me the night before at about midnight and told me I was going up the next day,” Barger said in a recent interview with The Herd Chronicles. “They told me at around 12:00 and my ride to the airport was at 5:00 AM, so, I didn’t sleep at all. Then I got to the airport, flew to Kansas City and went straight to the ballpark – and I was in the lineup.” He then added with a chuckle, “I was ready to go.”

Not only was Barger in the Blue Jays’ starting lineup when he arrived at Kaufman Stadium, but he was scheduled to play left field – a position he’d never played before. Barger was drafted as an infielder and has played shortstop, second base, third base, and even a little first base while coming up through the Blue Jays’ minor-league system. In 2023, he began playing right field for the Bisons, but he’d never played left field, not even in little league, travel ball, or high school.

After learning his debut would be in left field, Barger got a quick tutorial about his new position from Blue Jays first base coach and former Bisons outfielder Mark Budzinski.

“Bud took me out there,” Barger remembered. “We took a good amount of reps. We couldn’t do that much because everything happened so quickly and I was pretty tired from staying up all night and flying. So, I just did what I could before I got out there.”

Playing left field can be very different from playing right field.

“I think lefties slice the ball more than righties,” Barger explained. “You do get righty slices in right field but they’re not as exaggerated as they are in left, so that’s a little different. Other than that, it’s similar – but different.”

Barger’s first major-league hit came at Rogers Centre against the Royals. With the Blue Jays leading 5-4 in the bottom of the sixth inning, he stepped to the plate against right-handed reliever Matt Sauer to lead off the inning.

“He’s a guy I’ve faced a good amount of times in the minor leagues,” Barger said. “So, I kind of knew, or had a better idea of what I was going to get because I was familiar with him.”

After taking an outside curveball and then fouling off a fastball, Barger lined a curveball into right-center field at 106.2 mph for a single – and his first big-league hit.

“I was just looking for something over the plate,” he recalled. “He threw me a breaking ball away and I was able to stick it out and barrel it.”

The crowd of 29,879 gave the young prospect a huge ovation as his teammates retrieved the milestone ball for him.

“It was awesome,” Barger said of the moment. “Unforgettable.”

And where did the ball from his first major-league hit wind up?

“It’s still in my locker, so I’ve got to figure out what I’m going to do with it,” he smiled.

After Sauer retired the next batter, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. lined a double into the left-center field corner – and Barger raced home all the way from first to score his first big-league run. The run ended up being the difference in the Blue Jays’ 6-5 win.

Now, Barger is back in a Bisons uniform and is once again a leader on one of the top-producing offences in the International League.

“We’ve got a lot of guys who can bang,” he said. “We really just have a good group of guys. Everyone is having a lot of fun this year.”

But the taste of the big leagues he experienced has only fueled his fire to return.

“Obviously, it’s the goal and that’s where you want to be,” he said. “We put in the work every day and the goal is to get there, be productive, and stay there.”


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