Holy Cross baseball coach Aaron Barras has ‘surreal’ journey back to alma mater | Prep Sports

Aaron Barras arrived in Philadelphia with two bags of clothes and $300 to his name. He didn’t have much. Hurricane Katrina had destroyed the family home in Slidell.

“My car was in a tree,” he said.

Barras went to Philadelphia at the urgent of college baseball teammate Tim McIlvaine, now the scouting director for the Los Angeles Angels.

Back then, Barras had no intention of becoming a baseball coach. But once he started coaching, that put the Holy Cross graduate on a circuitous route back to his high school alma mater as the head baseball coach. Holy Cross announced the hiring Thursday.

“It’s a little surreal,” said Barras, a 1998 graduate who pitched and played third base while in high school. “I’m excited for the opportunity to go back. I worked really hard for a very long time, went all over the country and learned as much as I can.”

Barras, 41, coached the past four seasons at Kenner Discovery, where he helped build the program from scratch — playing one junior varsity season in 2019 before qualifying for the LHSAA playoffs for the first time in 2021.

Against De La Salle this season, Kenner Discovery trailed 3-2 and loaded the bases in the seventh inning but came up short. Despite the loss, Barras saw that as a mark of progress because of how lopsided some losses were in earlier seasons.

“To see how far the kids have come as players and as people, that’s something I’m most proud of,” Barras said.

Barras began coaching after his 2005 move to Philadelphia. But first, he took a job in finance, something that gave him a paycheck but not much satisfaction. McIlvaine, whose father Joe was a former general manager for the San Diego Padres and New York Mets, introduced Barras to St. Joseph’s University baseball coach Shawn Pender — now the vice president of player development for the Cincinnati Reds.

Pender hired Barras as an unpaid volunteer assistant coach, meaning Barras needed a part-time job on the side. For that, he worked at a couch. After one season, Pender hired Barras full-time to coach pitchers and infielders. By then, he was hooked on coaching.

“My first year, I fell in love with it,” he said. “It was amazing working with the kids and traveling, learning as much as I could.”

After his second season at St. Joseph’s, Barras became the head baseball coach at Episcopal Academy, a high school in Newton Square, Pennsylvania. There, the Churchmen went from winning two games before Barras arrived to winning 12 games in his first season and “18 or 20” games in each of the next three, he said.

While there, 10 baseball players went on to play in college — six in Division I and four in other divisions.

He left Episcopal Academy to oversee the Philadelphia Phillies Youth Baseball Academy, which ran a series of camps for children from 5 to 14 years old. He did that until he returned home and took a job with Kenner Discovery.

Now at Holy Cross, where Barras replaced former coach Andy Cannizaro after a 12-24 season, Barras will follow an approach that has worked at other places.

“I’ve been about hard work, doing things the right way,” said Barras, who pitched in college at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama. “Character is important to me. ‘Attitude and effort’ will be what the kids are going to hear over and over again.”

Barras graduated from Holy Cross more than two decades ago without any intent to coach baseball. Now back at the school, Barras will take with him an approach he said can turn the Tigers into consistent winners.

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