ESPN Gainesville’s Ellie Shreve interviewed former Gator Hunter Barco during spring training at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. Barco spoke about his transition to the Pittsburgh Pirates, provided an update on his recovery from Tommy John Surgery and shared his thoughts on the 2023 Gators baseball squad.
Barco was selected by the Pirates as the 44th overall pick in the second round of the 2022 MLB draft. During his time at Florida, Barco made quite the impact. The left-handed pitcher concluded his UF career ranking second all-time with 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings. Barco turned in a 17-5 career record with a 3.18 ERA across 30 appearances including 29 starts. During his sophomore season, Barco was named the No. 1 pitcher in college baseball by D1Baseball. He would make nine starts on the mound for the Gators prior to undergoing a season-ending Tommy John surgery.
Transition to Pirates
After suffering from Tommy John, Barco’s plans for the future became unclear. However, things have worked out for the Jacksonville native who says he could not be more happy with how everything has gone for him.
“It’s definitely a big transition,” Barco said. “I’m really happy with how everything’s going, especially with the injury I didn’t know what was going to happen. I just can’t thank people enough with the Pirates for giving me the opportunity and at Florida for helping me get there.”
Barco says that his draft day was filled with unexplainable emotions. The former Gator rented a beach house in Amelia Island with his family. When he heard his name called, he couldn’t explain the feeling of just knowing all his hard work had paid off. His focus now is finishing out recovery, getting back to it and making it to the next level.
The biggest change for Barco during his transition from playing at the college level to the professional level is a new level of independence.
“I would say the biggest change is that a lot of it is on your own,” Barco said. “No one’s there to make sure you’re getting there on time, it’s all up to you. In college you have roommates, everyones’s getting each other up on time. Like if you don’t wake up in time you miss out on the day and that’s on you. I can’t really say too much on the playing just because I haven’t played at all yet but just from what I’ve seen it’s a bunch of guys having fun playing baseball and that’s what it’s all about.”
Barco says his favorite memory since making the transition has been coming to Pirate City every day. While the days are long and may get repetitive, it’s the people around him that make it worth while.
“My favorite memory would have to be the players here that I’m going through surgery with… just all together, hyping each other up and getting through it.”
Update on Recovery
Barco is currently ten months out in the Tommy John surgery recovery process. He says everything has gone great and he has not experienced any setbacks. He further expressed his gratitude for the Pirates staff and how they are handling the injury.
“Every little thing they can do to make sure I get back on the field in time, they’ve done,” Barco said. “Whether it be just with me every single day when I’m throwing or in the training room, making sure I’m doing what I need to do. They’ve been great.”
Barco also spoke on how his fellow teammates and coaches who have gone through Tommy John have been able to offer him advice throughout his recovery.
“That’s the bad thing about baseball, being a pitcher, I guess is for a lot of guys it’s not if it’s when at this point,” Barco said. “There’s a bunch of guys, I don’t want to name anybody for those reasons, but there’s a bunch of coaches and players who have helped for sure.”
Time at Florida
When asked about his favorite memory with the Gators, Barco again shined the spotlight on his teammates. While Barco had many memorable moments on the mound, he says his favorite part has to be the relationships he built during his time with the Orange & Blue.
“There’s so many great memories,” Barco said. “I’d really just have to say being with my teammates day in and day out and everyone just having each other’s backs. When I look back I don’t really think of one specific moment or game, like it’s really just being with the team and the camaraderie that comes with it.”
2023 Gators Baseball
Fast forward to 2023 Gators baseball and Barco says he could not be more proud of the current team and how they have started the season.
“They’ve been doing great. The coaching staff has helped bring up some new guys that came in this year, along with the new transfer portal rule. I’m just really proud of them for how they’re doing to start the season.”
Barco further commented on Florida’s starting rotation.
“Sproat’s done great, Waldrep, can’t even talk about Caglianone. I think everyone knows what he’s doing. Not to leave anyone out, but they’ve done a great job…really proud of them.”
Get to Know Barco
At the end of the interview, Barco answered the following fun ‘get to know you’ questions.
- “If you were stranded on an island for three months, out of all your current teammates who would you want to have with you?
Barco: “Thomas Harrington, Josiah Sightler and Michael Walsh to keep things light…he’s the jokester. When I first got here, me and Tom lived together so we got really close through that. Sightler and I bonded through the struggles of SEC baseball. He went to South Carolina. And Michael Walsh he went to Yale, smart kid but keeps everything really light and funny.”
- Favorite music artist: Cody Johnson, also likes HARDY, Cody Jinks and Zach Bryan, but *Not a Morgan Wallen fan*
- Favorite restaurant: Whiskey Joes – “Right on the beach, got live music and karaoke some nights. Great food and good atmosphere.”
- “You’ve been assigned to the FCL Pirates in Bradenton, Florida, how do you like the area?”
Barco: “I love it. I grew up in Florida, went to college in Florida. It’s really all I’ve ever known. I love being in the sun and not having to worry about the cold too much.”
- All-time favorite movie: Forest Gump
- All-time favorite TV shows: Game of Thrones and Peaky Blinders – “Too hard to pick between the two.”
- Favorite song right now: Never go Home Again by Cody Johnson