By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) The ballpark looks a little different from the Wrigley Field visitors’ dugout for former Cubs infielder Darwin Barney, who prepared himself mentally for this return to face to the only baseball franchise he had ever played for until a July 28 trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were 8-4 winners in the teams’ series opener Thursday night in Chicago.READ MORE: Teen Charged In 8-Year-Old Melissa Ortega's Murder Has Criminal Record For Carjacking And Gun Charges
The 2012 National League Gold Glove award winner at second base, Barney hit the wall on offense and had to work through extensive slumps in 2013 and 2014. The low batting average eventually led to part-time status before he was dealt for pitcher Jonathan Martinez.
“It’s never easy,” Barney said of leaving the Cubs after seven years in the organization. “Never easy to leave a family you have been with for so long. When you put on a different uniform, it’s a different uniform. Your mind set changes really fast. Obviously I cherish my time here. You know it was time to move on. After those first couple days, it got fairly easy.”
It hasn’t been all a bed of roses for the likable Barney since the trade. He was optioned to the minor leagues due to a numbers crunch for a short period of time. For the season, he’s hitting .235 with three home runs and 21 RBIs in 87 games. He hit .208 in 2013 after peaking at .276 in 2011.
“Obviously I still follow my really good friends over here,” Barney said of the Cubs. “I miss those guys. When you hear about (Anthony) Rizzo missing time when he was hurt, I had never seen that before and (Starlin) Castro the same thing. I try not to follow too close. You don’t want to fall into the ‘get back with the ex-girlfriend’ trap. I care about these guys. I care about their lives and their family. It makes me really happy when I see Rizzo and Castro.”READ MORE: Illinois House Committee Advances Bill That Would Require Life Rings Along Lakefront
The feisty Oregon native was a clubhouse favorite and leader as a Cub. Despite his limited run production, Barney was a huge asset as a teammate and source of positive reinforcement.
“Barney is acquired taste,” former Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “You have to see him every day and evaluate him on his skill set and clubhouse presence to really appreciate him.”
Barney will hope to be a part of the 25-man Dodgers playoff roster this postseason, but that status remains uncertain. Ironically, the Cubs are talking about bringing in veteran players moving into nest season to help lead the talented young players on the present 25-man roster. The team executives have even stated they would like some of the players they traded to possibly come back in the near future.
So would Barney like to return to the Cubs one day?
“Not this year,” Barney quipped, with anticipation of getting a ring with the playoff-bound Dodgers.MORE NEWS: UIC Stepping Up Conferences To Join Missouri Valley Conference
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.