Cincinnati Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart is passionate about food.
For the past five years, the Zionsville resident has satisfied that hunger by taking up cooking.
“Everyone has got their niches, too. If they are stressed or get away from whatever it may be, they find that,” said Barnhart, a 2009 Brownsburg High School graduate. “For me, it’s cooking. I feel like I get to express myself a little bit in my food. To me, there’s no better joy for me than cooking something for someone and them thoroughly enjoying it. It turns into something I’ve loved to do, and I hope I can continue to evolve.”
After Major League Baseball shut down spring training March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Barnhart began supporting Zionsville restaurants and Cincinnati restaurants with gift cards on Takeout Thursday. He alternates each week which area he supports with the giveaways.
“I love trying new food and love trying new restaurants,” he said. “I like showing people a different side of me, to be able to marry that together with helping local businesses at a time of crisis like this. My wife and I were trying to think of ways to give back and help out, and this made a lot of sense to do it.
“As long as this layoff for me continues and I’m at home, it’s something I’m going to continue to do.”
In Cincinnati and northern Kentucky, Barnhart has helped out with restaurant gift cards for first responders, hospitals and the Boys & Girls Club.
In Zionsville and Indianapolis, he has purchased $500 worth of restaurant gift cards to support some of his favorite restaurants doing takeout on his Twitter feed. Callers who use his name when ordering receive a maximum of $25 per order until the cards are used. Zionsville restaurants he has supported include Noah Grant’s Grill House & Oyster Bar, the Friendly Tavern, Salty Cowboy Tequileria, Amore Pizzeria and Greek’s Pizza.
“Being able to play a game for a living and having a platform on social media, it just made sense,” he said.
Barnhart’s wife, Sierra, is expecting their second son at the end of July. Son Tatum turns 3 in August. Barnhart said he always tries to look for a silver lining.
“Being able to spend Mother’s Day and Easter in my own home with my wife has been phenomenal,” Barnhart said. “Being in the backyard with my son when the weather is nice has been fun.”
Barnhart, who has a .250 batting average with 39 homers in 590 career games, made his major league debut with Cincinnati in 2014. The Reds made some offseason moves and optimism was high for this season.
“It’s obviously been very frustrating,” he said. “We were having a good spring and felt as a team we were where we wanted to be. Then the shutdown came. I’m confident that if and when the season does get started, we will be in a position to have a good team.”
As the Reds’ players union representative, Barnhart will be one of the first to review when the owners make a formal proposal for restarting the season.
“I can’t stress enough how the health and safety of everyone involved – players, personnel, stadium operations and families – that are with us during the season has to be taken care of first,” said Barnhart, who won a Gold Glove in 2017. “Everything else will follow suit. If everything starts to open up, I think giving us a July 1 start seems like it makes sense.”
As of May 13, no formal proposal has been proposed.
“I feel for the pitchers who will have to hurry to get ready,” he said. “From a position player, I feel three weeks is plenty of time, especially seeing live pitching for the entire three weeks.”
Barnhart has been working out in his basement gym and throwing in his backyard.
“The Reds have done a phenomenal job doing what they can to get us whatever we need during this time to keep us in shape,” he said.