03/13/10 11:54 PM EST
Barton puts another stamp on passport
Dodgers outfielder shares passion for seeing world
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
No player on the Dodgers' travel roster for the goodwill series in Taiwan has been around like Barton, whose wanderlust has taken him to 15 foreign countries. He's as likely to show up on the Travel Channel as MLB Network.
Granted, there's more to the inquisitive Barton that breaks the ballplayer stereotype. He majored in aerospace engineering at the University of Miami, interned at Boeing's satellite systems department while a freshman at Loyola Marymount, and even before that wondered what it would be like to venture into space as an astronaut.
"As a kid, there were always places I wanted to see and things I wanted to do," said Barton, a 27-year-old outfielder trying to make the club on a Minor League contract after previous big league stints in St. Louis and Atlanta.
"I didn't have a lot of money and didn't get to go places and I told myself, when I get old enough, I'd start doing those things."
Barton said that transferring from Loyola to Miami was the "stepping-stone" he needed to begin a life of exploration.
"Getting away from home, that was a big leap for me," he said. "Now, I needed to get out of the country."
Barton signed up for a trip to Egypt offered by the School of Architecture, "even though I wasn't into architecture. Egypt sounded cool. Then, 9/11 happened and the school didn't think going to Egypt was a good idea anymore."
Undeterred, Barton took the refund and redirected his desire to visit Africa with a trip to Ethiopia, the homeland of his girlfriend.
"It was surreal. I loved it, couldn't believe it," said Barton.
In 2007, Barton spent two weeks in Europe, visiting Ireland, England, France, Spain, Germany and Italy. Next on the itinerary was Puerto Rico, followed by Australia, then South Africa, Jamaica and Peru. And now, Taiwan.
"The people here are great, so nice, and there's an energy to life here," he said. "Not just the fans, but when you walk around the city, there's a jubilance. It's my first trip to Asia and it's exciting. My next trip is Japan this winter. Now, the only continent left is Antarctica."
Barton's statistical goals can be measured in hundreds, but it's not about home runs or RBIs.
"I want to visit a couple hundred countries eventually. That's a lifetime goal," he said.
Barton wants to take his family on one of these trips, so they can learn about life in other parts of the world as he has.
"I guess this passion is really from, when I was growing up, I wanted to be an astronaut," he said. "I always wanted to go into space, wondering what's out there, seeing the stars and the moon and thinking about life on other planets.
"Traveling, there's just so much out there. And it's my desire to see as much of it as I can. There's a value in it. Now that I'm older, I appreciate the knowledge you get by going places. It brings so much back to your life. You see how other people go through life and you get a new perspective."
Barton said other players are curious -- and sometimes inspired -- by his tales of life on the road.
"I don't think anything I do is really special, but I was talking to Chris Young of the D-backs and he said, 'I want to do that,'" Barton said. "Ryan Braun said he's going with me on the next trip. I'm a rookie, but I'm inspiring others. I get enjoyment from that. People want to see my passport and the stamps on it. They see places they've never been and maybe it inspires somebody else to do it."
Barton called his trip to Ethiopia the "eye-opener."
"Even though I didn't have much, I still took things for granted," he said. "Then you go to a poor country, see what they endure to survive, and I'm complaining?"
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.