Yes, pitcher Casey Barnes was on the Kansas City (KS) T-Bones disabled list in 2015 after catching a sizzling line drive with his bare hand, injuring a thumb.
No, that is not why he moved into The Piper Assisted Living and Memory Support for the 2016 baseball season.
“It’s a gorgeous place … really great people … food is awesome … I couldn’t be happier,” explains the 28-year-old right-hander, back on the mound in full form with a respectable 3.13 ERA this season.
His home is in Tempe, AZ, so he must find local lodging when he joins his team in Kansas City from May to September. Last year he lived with a host family. This year he asked the T-Bones management for an apartment. Having just teamed up with The Piper, the T-Bones offered him assisted living.
He was taken aback, initially: “I mean, my grandpa is in assisted living,” he says. “But then I thought, let’s roll and see how it plays out.”
He’s glad he did. “I walk in and am blown away – I have my own little apartment furnished with a TV and couch, a washer and dryer, and I’m like, holy smokes, this is awesome!”
Bringing Casey to bat is part of The Piper’s game plan to connect elders with people of all ages and backgrounds, says Coletta Hummel, Director of Community Relations. “Residents are very engaged with Casey. He has made fast friends with quite a few people living here who are excited to see him pitch,” she says.
Though the team’s rigorous schedule keeps Casey on the road much of the time, he enjoys hanging out with residents when he is home at The Piper. “They’re really sharp people,” he says. Like Lou, a WWII veteran. “My grandpa is a WWII vet and Lou reminds me of him. I tease Lou all the time and he gives it right back to me,” says Casey.
In the community where his grandpa lives in Arizona, one day is pretty much like the next. “But when I’m at The Piper it brings a different dynamic to the residents,” Casey says.
He has met several baseball fans at The Piper, like the resident who wears that crummy old St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap – “I finally got him a T-Bone cap so he can stop wearing it,” Casey says. He’s also working on hooking the household television sets to the internet so residents can watch T-Bone games, which are rarely televised on the networks.
His six-foot, 180-pound frame is well-fueled on The Piper fare. Though he can cook in his apartment, he usually prefers to eat in the household kitchen with residents. “Eggs, bacon, French toast, breakfast sandwiches, pancakes, turkey, broccoli, rice and beans, grilled chicken – they take care of me, no doubt about it,” he says.
But skip the shrimp. “I’m not very picky, but one time they had seafood, so I said to (homemaker) Lena (Hummel), ‘Sorry, I don’t like seafood.’ She says, ‘So, what do you want?’ And she fixes me a nice little chicken stir fry with vegies … just awesome!”
His parents have visited and dined with the residents, and sometimes he invites a lucky teammate to dinner in the household. Once Mills Clark, a homemaker and dessert specialist, made several dozen mini cheesecakes for Casey to take back to the clubhouse. “Our team ate the whole batch that night,” he says.
His experience at The Piper has dispelled his preconceptions about assisted living. “I told my parents that Grandpa needs this, and that I hope I end up in a place like this when I’m at that age,” he says.
For now, he says, living at The Piper “takes the stress off of me as a player because I don’t have to worry about anything.”
Read this related article about mixing generations, also published in McKnight’s on June 13.