Barry Bonnell: Mormon Athlete

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Barry Bonnell Mormon Athlete

Robert Barry Bonnell is a former Major League Baseball outfielder. He played for the Atlanta Braves from 1977 to 1979, the Toronto Blue Jays from 1980 to 1983, and the Seattle Mariners from 1984 to 1986.

While playing for the Spartanburg Phillies (the Braves' farm team in Greenwood, South Carolina), he met Dale Murphy. Bonnell, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, asked Murphy some questions about the importance of baptism and eternal life and the two had many long discussions and Murphy received lessons from the missionaries and Bonnell baptized Murphy in 1975.

Bonnell was born on October 27, 1953, in Miamiville, Ohio. He played high school championship baseball and basketball teams. He attended the Ohio State University on a full athletic scholarship and played both baseball and basketball. He was the first pick by the Philadelphia Phillies in the January 1975 Major League Baseball draft—secondary phase (for college players who had been previously drafted out of high school) and left college during his senior year.

During his best season (1983), playing for the Blue Jays, he hit .318. His peers knew him as a “money hitter”; he hit four grand slams during his career and led his teams in game-winning hits nearly every year he played. With a strong and accurate throwing arm, he was respected by base runners in both leagues.

During his 1984 season playing for the Seattle Mariners, he contracted a respiratory infection known as Valley Fever that developed into pneumonia, which took him a year to recover from and shortened his career.

After his retirement in 1986, he coached an 18-and-under baseball team and pursued other interests, which included aviation. He attended Flight Safety International’s Airline Transition Program and was hired as a first officer by Northwest Airlink's Express Air One. He flew the twin engine turboprop SAAB 340-B for one year but decided that the failure of Eastern Airlines and the second failure of Braniff Airlines meant that too many high-time furloughed pilots were flooding the system which would hamper his ability to advance to a job flying jets for a major airline.

Bonnell then entered the business world and worked in the home medical equipment field for ten years. He then became an importer, supplying a variety of items to large retail chains. He is also pursuing a writing career by working on his personal memoirs and various other projects. He is co-owner of Roy’s Boys Pet Toys and co-owns a patent on a pet triggered programmable toy. He is a blacksmith and fabricator.

Bonnell and his wife, Stefnie, are the parents of five children and live in Washington State.