HOUSTON - A glance at Brandon Barnes and it’s hard not to notice what he so prominently displays.
"People always ask me why I get tattoos, well I ask, "Why do you have art at your house?’," says Barnes. "People think this guy is a thug or this guy has been in jail, for some people, it just doesn’t look good and that’s cool with me."
As for his play, well that too is considered by some as reckless.
"Coming from a football background, it’s something that will never leave me," says Barnes. "For me that’s the only way I like to play."
He’s really been left with no other choice given what he’s been through just to get here.
As a football player coming out of high school, Brandon had two verbal offers from UCLA and Colorado State to go play at the next level. Unfortunately, those schools changed their minds, forcing the California native to switch back to the sport he’d played since he was 4.
"I wasn’t a prospect in high school, people weren’t coming to watch me play," says Barnes.
A productive year at Cypress Community College changed all that, sparking the interest of the Astros which made him sixth round pick in 2005.
"I always say it all worked out because God had a plan for me and he knew where I was supposed to be," says Barnes.
For 7 years, Barnes was in the minor leagues going from city to city, never seeming to catch that break he was looking for.
"I get chills thinking about it right now," says Barnes.
He isn’t alone. His wife Shawn experienced his pain has well.
"As a wife, girlfriend or fiancé, it’s hard to see a man break down like that, especially one that you love," says Shawn Barnes.
"She was the one that kept pushing me, she was the one that I would call at night, struggling and just down," says Barnes. "She would always tell me you’re not coming home."
In August of 2012, her persistence and his perseverance paid off. Brandon Barnes was headed to the big leagues.
"I just remember just putting my shirt over my face and letting that 8 years of emotion just pour out," says Barnes. "I immediately made a phone call to my wife."
"He just kept saying, we’re going to the show, we’re going to the show," says Shawn.
"I don’t think there is anyone in baseball that cried harder than I did," adds Barnes with a smile.
Since that call up, Brandon hasn’t been back down to the minors.
"My prayer before the game is ‘As I play for God, I play for my family and I play for myself’," says Barnes.
God and family.
Two cornerstones for oft-perceived bad boy and inspirations behind Brandon’s previously mentioned tattoos.
"They tell a story," says Shawn. "They are really a peak into his heart."
"I know my art has a meaning behind it," says Barnes. "There is a significance to everything that’s on my body."
Even two Roman numeral dates on his forearms have a special meaning as they signify another struggle, which came off the field.
"Before Kenadie, our daughter, we actually miscarried twice," says Shawn. "It’s something that we share and nobody else does."
"I’m more worried about my faith and my family than playing a game," says Barnes.
Because baseball has come and gone before. Everything else, Brandon has learned to treasure.
"When I see him playing with my daughter, I know that she idolizes him already," says Shawn.
"I’m the luckiest person on earth," adds Brandon. "I’ve been blessed beyond belief and God is good."