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Jamestown native Anthony Barone is in his third year as manager of the American Association’s Milwaukee Milkmen. Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Milkmen

Anthony Barone stood on the mound at Dietrick Park Monday night and calmly threw a strike just before the Jamestown Tarp Skunks’ Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League game against the Geneva Red Wings.

It was a nice, relaxing way for Barron to start a three-day stay in his hometown during the American Association All-Star break.

But when the Milwaukee Milkmen manager returned to the Midwest on Thursday afternoon, the intensity rose again.

Barone is not used to losing and his milkmen have work to do.

Milwaukee entered the All-Star break with a 24-27 record, 10 1/2 games back of the Chicago Dogs for first place in the East.

Anthony Barone and the Milwaukee Milkmen opened the second half of the American Association season Thursday night against the Kane County Cougars. Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Milkmen

“We’re a little disappointed with where we are. We have high expectations and have put together a really good squad.” Barone said while driving to Geneva, Ill., before the Milkmen took on the Kane County Cougars last night. “We had some injuries and a couple of guys were signed by affiliates. It’s kind of a juggling act right now. We are looking to turn it around. We’ve got a really good club so we’re excited to see what the next half-season brings.”

The Milkmen had five players featured as all-stars at Chicago’s Impact Field in the Windy City suburb of Rosemont, near O’Hare Airport, so it’s not like Barone’s team lacks talent.

“It was exciting to have five guys named stars. It shows that we have some talent, but baseball is not an individual game, either.” Barone said. “It takes nine guys and a pitcher to secure a win. It’s always pitching, defense and timely strikes; this is the recipe for success. Some nights it’s there and some nights it’s not, but we have the type of roster to drive this thing.”

The third-year manager is feeling the pressure and knows it’s up to him to turn the season around.

Barone was an assistant coach for the Milkmen in 2019, their first season in the American Professional Baseball Association. After that inaugural season, Mike Zimmerman, CEO of ROC Ventures, fired manager Gary McClure in favor of Barone.

Zimmerman and Barone had a previous relationship because Barone managed ROC Ventures’ Jamestown Jammers in the Prospect League and Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League from 2015-18. Barone was named PGCBL Manager of the Year in 2017 and 2018 as the Jammers won the 2017 Western Division and 2018 league championship.

“There’s a lot of trust. I’ve been working for Mike and Dan (Quenzi) for eight years now,” Barone said. “We will all work together and try to find solutions. We have had a lot of success.”

In 2020, Barone’s first season as manager of the Milkmen, the coronavirus pandemic severely impacted AA’s season, cutting it significantly short. Only six teams participated in the league this summer, and Milwaukee finished first in the regular season with a 34-26 record. The Milkmen then defeated the Sioux Falls Canaries 4-1 in a best-of-seven championship series to win the league title in just their second year of existence.

Last year, Barone’s team finished 18 games over .500 at 59-41, but four games behind Chicago in the North Division. The Milkmen then lost a one-game playoff to the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks.

“Records are always different and teams are always different. … Last year we started hot, had our best record after 75 games and didn’t finish where we wanted to,” Barone said. “Over the last three years as a manager, it’s always been about putting your guys in the right position and trusting them to do their job. I learn and grow every year.”

This season was not so easy for the 1997 Jamestown High School and 1999 Jamestown Community College graduate.

“This is baseball. Baseball is a strange sport. We can lose three in a row and then win seven in a row.” Barone said. “We’re not overly concerned. We will play the last 50 games and give our best. We think at the end of the year we will be close to where we want to be. We want to win a championship and that starts with making the playoffs.”

The top four teams in each division advance to the postseason with three-game first-round series. A best-of-three series then decides the division champions before a best-of-five championship series.

The East Division consists of the Milkmen, Dogs, Gary SouthShore RailCats, Kane County and Lake Country DockHounds – all less than 150 miles apart in the Chicago area – and then the Cleburne (Texas) Railroaders. The West Division is made up of the RedHawks, Canarys, Kansas City Monarchs, Lincoln Saltdogs, Sioux City Explorers and Winnipeg Goldeyes.

The travel and time away from his family took its toll on Barone, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Obviously there are days … we call it the highlight of the season … it’s going to wear you down every now and then, but my love for the game has never been stronger.” he said. “I have a great support system with my wife, kids and family. Being at a high level in baseball is something I always envisioned when I was younger.

“It’s something I love to do and will always love to do,” Barron added. “In any profession, you’re going to go through some ups and downs. I am very lucky to be doing what I love. I couldn’t think of a better job.”

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