FLORENCE, S.C. (AP) — The 2021 Major League Baseball season kicked off Thursday (April 1), and in a few weeks, Minor League Baseball will return to the diamond for the first time in a year and a half.
One noticeable name that will not be back in his familiar place in the dugout, however, is Barrett Kleinknecht.
The former West Florence/Francis Marion standout and Florence Athletic Hall of Famer would usually be in Florida getting ready to manage the Florida Fire Frogs—the Class A advanced affiliate of the Atlanta Braves that Kleinknecht has helmed since 2017.
But circumstances and priorities have shifted greatly in the past year, and that likely means his professional coaching career has come to end.
But Kleinknecht has no regrets − in fact it was on his own terms that he returned to Florence and started the next chapter of his life.
Since July, Kleinknecht has been running Kleink’s Mosquito & Ant Control LLC (https://www.facebook.com/kleinksmosquitoandantcontrol). The move came after working with his father-in-law, Jimmy Summersett, part of the time last year after the MiLB season was canceled.
Summersett, who owns S&S Pest Control, needed someone who could handle the growing demand by customers for mosquitos and fire ants, he said. Kleinknecht took and passed the test and worked for both Summersett and Bobby Dennis last summer before eventually starting his own service.
“With last year and the season kind of up in the air, I started dabbling in it,” he said. “I found out that I really liked it and I enjoyed being home. I got my business going and it’s been a blessing because it took off way faster than I thought it would.
“...I just fell in love with being able to work for myself and being able to make my own schedule.”
That was key as it allowed him to be home more with his wife and young twin girls than being a professional baseball coach ever would have.
Even though the Fire Frogs were one of the casualties of MLB’s reduced minor league system, Kleinknecht said the Braves were prepared to send him to Mississippi to coach the Double-A affiliate there.
But by then, he’d already made up his mind.
“I called the Braves in July, and it was kind of slated for me to go to Double-A this year and manage,” Kleinknecht said. “But after talking to my wife and my parents and her parents and really praying about it, I made the decision to call the Braves and let them know.
“I told them I’d go down to their alternate (training) site if they needed me, but that this was pretty much it.”
The Braves were understanding of the situation, Kleinknecht said.
“The direction the Braves organization is going is just unbelievable because the people at the top treat you like people; like a real person,” he said. “When I told them I wanted to be around my kids and I couldn’t do that and coach, they understood.”
Even with a promotion to Double-A − and a clear path to potentially coaching in the majors some day − Kleinknecht has no second thoughts about stepping away from baseball.
“I say this now, but even if they had offered me a big league job, I think I was ready to be done,” he said. “Last year was the first time I’d seen April in Florence since I think in 15 years. It was a just a long time with me not being able to do certain things − celebrate Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Easter. That’s the things that mean the most to me.
“Baseball’s not my identity.”
Kleinknecht also has no plans to get back into coaching any time soon, regardless of what level.
“I want to see what my girls what to do, whether that be softball, soccer, golf, dance, ballet − whatever they want to do,” he said. “I want to be there and show up like my parents did.
“Coaching’s probably not anywhere in the near future for me. I just want to soak up this time that I have because I know how quickly it goes.”
For copyright information, check with the distributor of this item, Morning News.