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Showcase  | Story  | 8/16/2023

Carns Cruising into Phoenix

Riley Sheppard     
Photo: Hunter Carns (Perfect Game)
Hunter Carns' love for baseball originated years before becoming one of the nation’s best players. 

“The first memories I have of playing baseball is in Little League with All Stars,” Carns said. “Just going out there and having fun with all my friends. That's what really got me to love the game of baseball. We were just having fun and kept winning and it was really fun just to be around them and playing baseball.”

But even as a scrawny kid growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, Carns had his sights set on the Perfect Game All American game - a dream that officially came true last month. 

“It's probably one of the most exciting moments in my life,” Carns said. “That's pretty much all I've worked for since I found out about it. My mom was with me when we got the phone call and the first thing I did after that was call my dad and then I texted Stephen Barnes to let him know."

“When I was younger I was probably one of the smallest and skinniest kids on my team and not very good. The Select Fest was my main goal at first, but then when I didn't make those it was PG All American.”

As a freshman at First Coast High School, Carns met Barnes - head coach for the Buccaneers - for the first time where the two immediately built a connection. However, the camaraderie they’ve developed over the past three years goes well beyond the box score and winning ball games. 

“My freshman year is when I met Coach Barnes and he kind of took me under his wing,” Carns said. “He helped me a lot with my hitting. We changed my stance my freshman year to help me gain more power because I used to be really small, and he would always take me to the field to go hit. He'd come pick me up and take me to the field to go here to help my swing. We built a bond together that’s more than just a baseball coach and a player.

“Off the field he's really helped me give back to the community with charities. He's taken me to go help those little kids that are in elementary school and teach them the game of baseball. I've also helped him out with his little league team.”

Despite a strong freshman campaign where he batted .453 with 16 RBI and a 1.376 OPS, the Florida State commit knew adding more muscle could elevate his game even further. 

Entering his sophomore campaign, Carns began lifting weights for the first time and witnessed immediate results on the field - doubling his home run total and improving to a .523 mark at the plate. 

“I started off on a bench machine and I could barely do the 25s,” Carns said. “Before the summer started, I maxed out at 265. I also did a machine squatting to start and I could barely do the 45s on each side, but now I can squat 365. And deadlift I started off with a trap bar doing like 10s on each side, and now my max is 405 with a shape bar.”

And those results have translated directly to the biggest stage. Just last month, the 18-year-old hit two long balls during the PG National Showcase at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona, squaring up fellow top talent. 

“It was really fun to go out there because my dad got to go with me and he doesn't get to go to a lot of the baseball games I have because he has to work,” Carns said. “So he got to go out there with me, and playing in a big league stadium was also really exciting. It was my first time and just going out there and showing what I could do and it was so exciting to hit [two] home runs.”

While Carns has since developed into Florida’s top rated catcher, the kid who’s passion emerged just enjoying the game will always be a part of him. 

“I really enjoy being with the kids and helping them learn baseball and they're really fun to be around,” Carns said. “I always want to be remembered by being a good person and giving back to everyone around me.

“I’ve seen myself look at everything differently, because you don't really see that some people could be struggling when they are.”