If Payson High School ever produced a graduate capable of playing Division I sports or in the professional ranks, it was 6-foot, 5-inch, 300-pound Mike Barr.
But it wasn’t Barr’s size or athletic ability that made him stand out.
Rather it was his compassion, humility, spirit and down-home, friendly demeanor.
The former Payson High School three-sport star died July 14, 2010 of heart failure. At the time of his death, he was 25 years of age and working in California doing underwater construction.
His death sent shock waves through the Rim Country, mostly because he was a picture of health, blessed with immense athletic talent.
Months after his untimely death, a group of friends gathered to mull over founding a remembrance benefit that would honor Mike’s memory and earn money for a worthwhile cause.
Due to Mike’s love of sports and athletics, the group decided to found the Mike Barr Memorial Coed Softball Tournament and home run derby that would generate funds for the Michael T. Barr Foundation.
The foundation’s expressed purpose is to help financially strapped PHS students pay for some of their needs, such as sports physicals and the $200 pay-to-play fees at the school.
This year’s event, which is the third annual, will be played Oct. 13 and 14 on multiple fields at Rumsey Park.
The home run derby is set to begin at 6 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 14 immediately after a coaches’ meeting.
The tournament will be played throughout both days.
The entry fee for the derby is $20 per hitter and the team registration for the tournament is $300.
Waylon Pettet, one of the directors of the tournament, says there are openings for teams, but the field is limited to 20 teams.
For the tournament, all teams are guaranteed three games and possibly four, which will be played in a round robin.
Following pool play, a championship single elimination tournament will be held.
The required male-to-female team format is five-to-five.
For more information on the upcoming tournament or to register to play, call (928) 951-3976. Also e-mail: mtb3foundation@ live.com.
The inaugural tournament, which was held in 2010, earned about $2,000 for the foundation.
Although the tournament was new and relatively unknown, except to those who remembered Mike, it drew 12 teams, seven of which were from Payson. Snowflake, Round Valley and Phoenix were also represented.
The best a Payson team performed was reaching the consolation semifinals, which was done by the squad Raising the Bar. On it were James, Melodi and Justin Deaton as well as former PHS football and baseball star Chad Martin.
In the home run derby, former Lady Longhorn softball standout Molly Hunt slugged her way to the women’s division championship.
In men’s home run competition, 16 hitters turned out to test their skills. Snowflake’s Cory Austin finished first, and Jace Earhart, also of Snowflake, was second.
Ex-PHS quarterback and basketball star Donnie Wilbanks advanced to the final round, but had to settle for second place.
Last year, the tournament drew a maximum 10 co-ed teams and for the home run derby, nine women’s teams competed and seven entered the men’s division.
While the tournament is remembered as a complete success, it did end Saturday night on an especially auspicious note when the lights went off and couldn’t be turned back on.
That meant the championship game between Winslow and Door Mill of Round Valley could not be finished.
So, the two teams were declared tournament co-champions.
The Mullet Mashers, an all-Payson team, had the misfortune of being in the same bracket with the two co-championship teams and had to settle for a fifth-place finish after being eliminated by a loss to Winslow.
In the home run derby, however, a pair of Rim Country teams swept top honors.
In the men’s division, the team of Adam Munson, Wilbanks and Pettet finished as top guns.
Among the women, Melodi Deaton, Malia Richards and Marci Rush were first.
Mike’s enjoyment of recreational sports is a fond memory for all who knew him. Years ago, Mike teamed up with Chad Martin and Wayne Loy to form the Garvin’s Towing Team that finished second in the town-sponsored home run derby. The trio donated their $200 in prize money to the Rotary Club.
In 2005, Mike, Layton Howell and Pettet took first place in the home run derby’s under-20-years division.
Barr also enjoyed recreational basketball after his heralded high school career ended, playing pick-up games wherever he could find them.
In early 2008, he hooked up with Matt McRae and Denver White to win the Tonto Apache 3-on-3-basketball tournament.
At Payson High from 2000 to 2004 Mike excelled in basketball and football, earning Class 4A Grand Canyon All-Region and All-4A State recognition in both. Mike also earned all-tournament honors in almost every invitational the Longhorns participated in during his high school career.
He was equally as good in track and field, competing mostly in the throws events.
His senior season he won the Grand Canyon region shot put and discus titles.
While Mike was as fine an athlete as PHS has ever produced, he always played with zeal, enthusiasm and a strong will to win