"So much talent emanating from one home. So much sadness, now, in one house."
CEDAR LAKE -- Junior varsity basketball games are usually played in the shadows, when many of the fans are in the restroom or in the popcorn line awaiting the big kids on the 7 p.m. stage.
But last Saturday night at Hanover Central, something different occurred. It shined some light in a dark and confusing place.
Wildcats’ freshman Deyton Barnett scored a basket. Time stood still. Instantly, the crowd rose to their feet and cheers echoed around the gymnasium. Tears, too.
The night before, Deyton's father, Robert Barnett, died.
A police officer picked Deyton up after basketball practice and rushed her to the hospital. No child should have to face such a thing. Ever.
But the fickle hand of fate is no respecter of persons. Not a one.
The Barnetts of Cedar Lake are a great family. Sports and laughter filled their days. The Barnett name was all over the local newspapers back when they actually covered games.
Skylar Barnett played center field and helped lead Hanover’s softball team to two semi states, in 2014 and ‘15. Ashtyn Barnett was a standout on last year’s semi state team from Hanover. And Deyton is just now beginning her athletic dreams.
Bob and his wife, Dione, were always around the games with a smile and a kind word for their daughters and their teammates. The wife and mother of this great family is surely dealing with much grief right now.
This would be a good time to say a prayer for all of them.
At Monday night’s basketball game at North Newton, Dione was in the stands. A steady stream of comforters walked by with a hug and some words of encouragement. She smiled to fight back the tears.
This would also be a good time for a hug.
Rob Barnett was a long-time travel softball coach. He coached several teams with the New Lenox Lightning and most recently with Riptide Softball in Cedar Lake. He was a tough, no-nonsense coach who demanded effort and sportsmanship. His daughters and his teams always showed passion when they competed.
Skylar is a junior at DePauw University. Ashtyn will join her in Greencastle after this spring is done. Making an extremely tough situation that much tougher, Skylar was studying in Europe when the news of her father’s death forced her to rush home.
So much talent emanating from one home. So much sadness, now, in one house.
My daughters competed with and against the Barnett girls for years. Friendships developed. Again, I was always aware when a Barnett was competing... whether it was hitting home runs in St. Louis or hitting a liner off the pitcher’s leg in Crown Point.
They played hard and did all they could to succeed.
But when the game was over they smiled and talked to those they had beaten or lost to. This will surely continue for this talented family. It will be Rob’s living legacy.
Rob's steps and coaching tips will live on in the lives of his daughters and wife. I am sure they will make him proud.
So if you see a Barnett girl on a softball diamond or basketball court, give them a hug. Let them know you care about what they’re going through.
Love is the only thing that can help us through times like these. But when a 42-year-old man dies unexpectedly, there are financial issues also. If you can, please go to GoFundMe and look up Robert Barnett. If you can, help these folks out.
A love offering from Da Region is just what these folks need.
Rest in Peace, coach.