Former Minor League Baseball Player, Once Homeless, Now Coaching Team Of Homeless Softball Players | NBC Bay Area
[SABLETEST}Bay Area Proud

[SABLETEST}Bay Area Proud

Inspiring stories of people making a difference

Former Minor League Baseball Player, Once Homeless, Now Coaching Team Of Homeless Softball Players

Walter Barnes says the Downtown Streets Team helped him get back on his feet when he had lost his way. He now volunteers with them helping others find jobs, homes, and now home plate. (Published Wednesday, May 6, 2015)

Though the phone call is more than 40 years in his rear view mirror, Walter Barnes remembers it as if it just happened.

That's just the way things work the moment your dreams come true.

"I wanted to jump up and turn a couple of flips, know what I mean?" says Walter, now in his sixties. The year was 1971 and the Chicago Cubs had called to let the Gunn High School baseball star know he had been drafted.

"It was the happiest day of my life."

Walter Barnes was a good enough baseball player at Palo Alto's Gunn High School to be drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 1971. He played two seasons in their minor league organization before giving up baseball to focus on raising a family.

Though Walter went on to play a couple of years in the Cubs' minor league system, a career in professional baseball didn't quite work out as he planned. In fact, more than a few things went off course in Walter's life leaving him, at one point, homeless.

"I just didn't think the world was fair," Walter says.

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Fortunately, with the help of the South Bay non profit, Downtown Streets Team, Walter was able to turn things around and get back on his feet. Now housed, employed, and married, Walter volunteers with the organization helping others find employment or housing.

On Friday nights, though, he also helps them find home plate.

After a series of back luck, and bad decisions, Walter found himself homeless later in life. He credits the South Bay non profit, Downtown Streets Team, with helping him get back on his feet and get his life back on track.

As a way to give back to the organization that helped him out of homelessness, and to help boost the spirits of others struggling without a home or a job, Walter has started Downtown Street Team's very first recreational softball team.

Each Friday night Walter and a dozen or so homeless and low income people gather in Washington park to participate in Bay Area Community Sports' co-ed league.

While the Downtown Streets Team has yet to win a game, Walter says that was never the point. "It's not about winning," Walter says. "You come out here and enjoy yourself."

As a way to give back to Downtown Streets Team, and to help give a boost to others struggling to find homes and jobs, Walter coaches a team of homeless people each night in a co-ed recreational softball league.

Walter says after a tough week dealing with the hassles and indignities of trying to find a job and a home, a bit of fun can change a person's outlook on the world, and their situation. Playing on the same field together can also change how the general public views the homeless, and vice versa.

One member of the Downtown Streets Team, Sandra, says she takes a two-hour journey on public transportation, just to make it to the games. "I can't tell you what this means to me," Sandra says. "To be part of a team with these wonderful people is magical."

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