Barone Manages Milkmen To Regular-Season Crown
Everywhere Anthony Barone goes, he wins.
It’s happening again in Wisconsin.
Earlier this week, Barone managed the Milwaukee Milkmen to the regular-season American Association title with a 34-26 record.
Now they are preparing for the championship series against the Sioux Falls Canaries.
The best-of-seven series starts at 7:35 p.m. today at Franklin Field at Ballpark Commons with Game No. 2 on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. outside Milwaukee.
“It’s been a great year and it’s been nice to have some normalcy,” Barone said Friday afternoon. “Sioux Falls is a cool city and they love their team, but we’ve had really good fan support here too.”
The series will shift to Sioux Falls for Games Nos. 3-5 on Tuesday through Thursday for 8:05 p.m. starts before if-necessary Games 6 and 7 return to suburban Milwaukee next Friday and Saturday.
“They are a very, very different type of team than we are and the ballpark plays way different than ours,” Barone said of the Canaries. “Their park is called the Bird Cage and it’s very hitter friendly. … It sets up as a really cool series.”
Barone is no stranger to championship series. At Jamestown Community College, from 2007-12 the Jayhawks won 207 games under Barone’s direction, including a 101-62 record in Region 3 play. The 2008 region Coach of the Year led Jamestown CC to five consecutive NJCAA regional tournaments.
“Those days were so long ago,” Barone said. “It’s crazy to think about where I was at and where I am now.”
ROC Ventures — which owns the Milkmen — hired Barone to lead the Jamestown Jammers in 2015. By 2017, the Jamestown High School graduate had the Jammers on the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League championship series and in 2018, Jamestown won the league title. Barone earned Coach of the Year honors both seasons — the only manager in PGCBL history to be honored twice
Barone then joined the Milkmen last year as an assistant coach in charge of infield defense and hitting before replacing Gary McClure, who was dismissed as manager last September.
“We had a really cool celebration when we closed out the division,” Barone said. “It’s been a wonderful experience.”
Now he’ll look to lead the second-year American Association franchise to its first title.
Standing in his way will be a Canaries team managed by Duell Higbe that led the league in several offensive categories this season, including runs scored, triples, total bases and slugging percentage.
Milwaukee will counter with the best pitching and defense in the league. The Milkmen feature the American Association’s best earned run average by a half-run to go along with the lowest WHIP and batting average against as well as the best fielding percentage.
“It’s been a remarkable year. We’ve been winning games with pitching, defense and timely hitting,” Barone said. “It’s been a little bit of everything in every game.”
Barone will roll out a four-man starting rotation in which all four pitchers have big-league experience. David Holmberg (6-1, 2.34 ERA, 76 strikeouts) will start Game 1 today followed by Henderson Alvarez, Drew Hutchison and Tim Dillard.
“He can throw four different pitches for strikes in any count. He’s very competitive. He’s our only lefty on the staff, which gives them a different look,” Barone said of Holmberg, adding about Alvarez, “He throws 96-98 mph and he’s healthy. He’s only 29 years old. Every time these guys pitch, there are so many scouts.”
Milwaukee’s low-scoring offense has been led by Adam Brett Walker II, the league’s Player of the Year, who hit .268 with 22 HRs and 50 RBIs in 220 at-bats.
“He’s been a big name, but he’s been with seven or eight different organizations,” Barone said. “We go through him offensively. He probably has the most power in all of professional baseball.”
Should the Milkmen be fortunate enough to lead at the end of games, Barone will turn the game over to his virtually unhittable closer Peyton Gray (0.00 ERA, 14 saves, 56 Ks in 32 innings).
“It’s an amazing story. He was released by the Rockies back in March and came in here just trying to make the team,” Barone said of Gray, voted the league’s Relief Pitcher of the Year. “When you watch him pitch, he’s 89-92 mph, but he’s one of these guys with an elite-level big-league spin rate.”
If all goes to planned, Barone will return to his hometown in a little over a week with his first professional baseball title in tow.
“We’ve gotten some really good players and we have a clubhouse culture where guys are really having fun playing the game,” he said. ” … I’m staying out of their way and letting them do what they love to do.”