Isotopes’ Barden is back in the states

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By Mike Cote

ALBUQUERQUE — Brian Barden spent his birthday in about as depressing a setting as there is: he was hanging out with media types.
As one of the new members of the 2013 Albuquerque Isotopes, he was in attendance for Media Day on the afternoon of April 2, which also happened to be his 32nd birthday.
For Barden, it was seemingly an anti-climactic end to a year that had seen him travel between a pair of continents to play baseball.
Barden has bounced around several Pacific Coast League clubs since 2002, when he was a sixth-round selection in the amateur draft, picked by the Arizona Dimaondbacks.
The Isotopes are Barden’s sixth PCL club since 2005. He has spent time in the big leagues between 2007-2010.
It’s tough for a 32-year-old to keep the dream of playing the Major Leagues alive after only a few short stints in the Bigs, and at this time in his career, Barden seems to understand it.
“Being an older Triple-A player, you don’t know how much playing time you’re really going to get,” he said. “Obviously, though, I want to win. We have a good team.”
Barden is a third baseman by trade and has touted his wares at Tucson, Memphis, New Orleans and Round Rock before landing in Albuquerque for 2013.
So far this season, Barden has appeared in seven games for the Isotopes (6-3), getting four hits, all of them singles, in 21 at-bats.
In 2011 and 2012, however, he got to experience baseball overseas. He played in Japan last season for the Hiroshima Carp.
Of course, Hiroshima and New Mexico will forever be linked, as Hiroshima was the site of the first atomic bomb attack by United States forces in World War II — Aug. 6, 1945 — with the “Little Boy” bomb being developed in Los Alamos.
While the people of Hiroshima celebrate “Peace Day” in August as a reminder of that fateful day that helped bring about the end of World War II, now Hiroshima’s fans are far more interested in baseball than they are rehashing old memories.
“They’ve moved on,” he said. “They had to.”
Hiroshima fans have to stuff themselves into the smallest ballpark in the Japanese professional league, which seats just 32,000 — sluggers, however, love the short stadium dimensions — and are among the best-traveling fans in the country.
Barden’s playing time in Hiroshima was limited due to bone chips in his elbow, but he said it was a baseball like he’d never seen it in the States.
“It was a really good experience,” he said. “As for the fans and the atmosphere you play in, they’re very passionate, but it’s different. Playing there, I compare it to spring training every day. They put in a lot of effort every single day. It’s a different culture and they work very hard there. Not that we don’t work hard, but they put in a lot of effort.”
In Japan, Barden hit .281 in 64 games.
This season, he came back to the Dodgers organization. He signed a minor league contract in January to play for the Isotopes.
Barden actually had a very good spring training, hitting .478 and slugging .538 and said he was feeling ready to go heading into the start of 2013.
 “Obviously, it was good from a numbers standpoint,” Barden said of his spring. “I didn’t have a lot of at-bat opportunities, but I needed to come and compete, have a good showing, and I think I did that.”