By Dawn Pearson
Tucker Barnhart grew up a Brownsburg Bulldog and is now best known as a Cincinnati Red, but the MLB catcher has chosen to put down roots in Zionsville where he lives in the offseason with his fiancé, Sierra Thompson, a research scientist at Dow AgroSciences.
“I love how quiet the town is,” Barnhart said. “I walk outside in the morning to get in my truck to run errands and people are always friendly.”
Around town, Barnhart, 23, reflects the town’s warm reputation. Lifelong Reds fans Nicole and Adam Roberts were thrilled to meet Barnhart at The Friendly Tavern, one of his favorite local dining spots. After learning of the couple’s love of his team, he brought in signed baseball cards for their kids, Campbell, 10, Gabe, 8, and Alex, 6.
“Tucker is one of the nicest and most humble ball players we’ve ever met. It just means so much to us to have him local and to be able to know him since we live here, too, and have heard all the great stories about him,” Nicole Roberts said.
One of those stories took place at Lion’s Park and is one of Barnhart’s favorite Zionsville memories.
“I was 12 years old and pitching in the Little League state tournament,” he said. “I faced 18 batters and struck out everybody.”
That game at Lion’s Park – as well as the many others he played there – left an impression on Barnhart, who thought of Zionsville as a wonderful place to live from a very young age.
“I remember a fantastic environment that was very family friendly and a joy to play in,” he said. “The hill in right field of the main little league field added a stadium feel to it and for every little kid that plays baseball. You felt like you were in the major leagues.”
Several years later, that dream came true for Barnhart when he was selected right out of high school as a 10th round draft pick for the Cincinnati Reds. That same year he earned the 2009 Indiana Mr. Baseball honor, which is presented to the top baseball player in the state.
Savoring the local flavor
Barnhart has joined his teammates in Goodyear, Ariz., to report to spring training, but when he’s in town he makes sure to stop in at his favorite local restaurants.
“The food [in Zionsville]is outstanding,” he said. “We frequent The Friendly Tavern, Ciao, Salty Cowboy and Noah Grants.”
In his spare time he also enjoys fine-tuning his guitar, golf and Playstation skills, hobbies that he has little time for during the baseball season.
“I love music and so occasionally, not as much as I would like, I get my guitar out and jam for a little while,” he said. “I play golf in the fall as much as possible, but obviously that is entirely based on how cooperative Mother Nature is. Video games are a staple also in my off season.”
Living in Zionsville also allows Barnhart to be near his family. His mother, Pam, works at a graphics design company in Indianapolis, and his father, Kevin, is a teacher who works with children with special needs. His sister, Paige, is also a Brownsburg High School graduate and is finishing up a bachelor’s degree at IUPUI.
Barnhart and Thompson have a November wedding planned in Indianapolis. They were introduced by their fathers, who both attended Ben Davis High School. After visiting spring training in 2011, they fell in love and began their life together in Zionsville, where they share an apartment with their pup, Prince.
“He’s the best. His personality trumps any dog that I’ve been around,” Barnhart said. “He’s my buddy, and we spend the off season hanging around home waiting for Sierra to get off work.”
As his new hometown brings up frequent memories of his early baseball career, Barnhart hopes to be an inspiration to his young fans playing on the same fields he once did.
“Don’t take any of your time as a kid playing baseball for granted,” he said. “Chase your dreams and don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something.”
GET TO KNOW TUCKER BARNHART
Year graduated: 2009, Brownsburg High School
College: Was planning to attend Georgia Tech, but accepted an offer to go pro instead
Favorite local restaurant: toss up between The Friendly Tavern, Noah Grants and Ciao
Favorite Movie: Gladiator
Favorite Food: Steak
Game day ritual: Music, music, music.