Barkdull’s poignant Park City career coming to an end
With every opportunity the Park City High School football team missed last fall, one individual in particular paced and fumed so fervently he could barely stand watching the next sequence.
Skyler Barkdull roamed the sidelines at Dozier Field with such intensity that he caught eyes and turned heads. He screamed and cheered until his voice, deep and easily recognizable, cracked.
But Barkdull wore no jersey, and no black helmet with the Miners’ emblem on either side.
As a freshman football player, Barkdull, still roughly a 5-foot-8 physique of nothing but stocky muscle and craze, would take the hits. Over and over again, he’d take hits and dish them out.
He played linebacker, running back, quarterback, you name it if there was a position on the football field, it said, appropriately, "Skyler was here."
But that unwavering enthusiasm took him to the brink and back again. Twice.
During a football game freshman year, he suffered the first of two subdural hematomas: a collection of blood on the surface of the brain due to head trauma.
He doesn’t recall what specific hit caused it, but once he walked to the sidelines, things spiraled.
"It just happened," Skyler said. "I just got a headache and came out of the game. I remember everything up to the point. I passed out and started seizing up and got LifeFlighted to the hospital."
Skyler’s brain was swelling at a rapid rate and the doctors had to perform emergency brain surgery to relieve the inflammation.
The second of two life-altering head injuries came the next year when another hard hit on the football field left him a little woozy.
"I got hit and thought it was a concussion," he said. "They did concussion tests on me and I didn’t have a concussion. The next day, I had to get LifeFlighted to the hospital again."
His second subdural hematoma wasn’t as serious as the first and didn’t require brain surgery, but it put an end to Skyler’s dream of playing high school football.
"Football was always my No. 1 sport. It’s always been my passion," he said.
Said Park City head baseball coach Lou Green: "He’s a tough, gritty guy. He’s a football player. That’s the mentality he takes all the time. When I was teaching P.E., I had him in team-sports class he’s a monster. He’s out there running over people in flag football."
While football is becoming a distant memory, Skyler’s passion for sports and winning isn’t.
More than three years later, Barkdull, now a senior, has found new stomping grounds a way to release that boiling zeal which courses through his veins.
He is a shortstop. He is a vocal leader who has struck out a grand total of 17 times in the last three years of his baseball career at Park City, and, someone who wants to has to win at all costs.
"He’s been that way since he started sports," said Skyler’s father, Barry. "Ever since he was a little kid, he’s just been a little different.
"I don’t know where it comes from, I really don’t. Ever since he was eight or nine years old, he didn’t want to be on the losing side of anything."
As a shortstop, he must pay attention to detail. He must be able to recognize pitch counts, which hitters are more likely to pull than go up the middle he must organize his infield, which, he says, is his domain.
"I like it," he said of his first year at the helm. "Shortstop is my favorite position. I’ve learned a lot from it. I love being in the middle of the field all the time."
Having played the game since the tee-ball days, Skyler doesn’t take a pitch off. He can’t. He’s a left-handed hitter with arguably more opposite-field power, a rarity in high school baseball. He delivered the walk-off hit in Park City’s regular-season finale Wednesday against Judge Memorial. He made it look easy.
His DNA doesn’t allow his mind to drift while he’s on the field, especially when a win is in his grasp.
"When the game’s on the line, he wants it on him," Barry Barkdull said. "It’s just one of those deals; he wants to be the one to carry the team and put them where they need to be.
"He’s not going to stand there and watch."
A problem for Skyler, at times, is slowing down, Green says.
"He wants to go 100 miles per hour all the time. It’s almost too fast sometimes," he said.
Added Green: "Emotionally, it seems like when he’s up, we’re up and when he’s down, we’re down. That’s one thing I’m trying to teach him as he will move into his college career. It’s an even-keel game.
"Baseball is a game of percentages over time, not percentages over 10 minutes."
Green’s first year as head coach has been a rewarding one, but hasn’t come without some bumps in the road with Skyler.
In Park City’s second game of the season at Woods Cross High School, Green had his first run-in with Skyler’s fiery disposition
Late in the game, he struck out on a questionable call and he didn’t like it. Green told him to hustle off the field. It didn’t happen.
"I took him out of the game and we ended up going into extra innings and losing," Green said. "Kids respond to playing time. I think that’s one of the best things I could have done for Skyler early, is getting his attention."
Fast-forward a bit. Today could mark the end of his roller-coaster high-school career.
Park City is set to take on Richfield in the first round of the playoffs and Skyler’s career is at a fork. It’s win, or put away his Miners uniform eternally.
"For a year, year and a half, he went through a lot of struggles," Barry Barkdull said. "Now, he’s turned it over to baseball. I think baseball is going to carry him where he wants to go."
Green wrote all of his seniors personalized letters before senior night. With Skyler’s, Green especially took his time.
"I told him in the letter, ‘There’s two ways you can play this game: The game can control you and your emotions, or you can control the game.’ When he learns to control the game, he’s going to be a stud wherever he ends up after high school," he said. "It’s going to be a lucky program. I think his best baseball is ahead of him."
"This is the biggest week of my high school career," Skyler said. "I’m definitely going to pick up the intensity this weekend."
If that’s possible.
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