Today, French is a healthy 20-year-old, but his early fight greatly affected Barnes.
"Just going through it, watching him grow up and battle through it and finally become cancer-free was awesome," Barnes said earlier this spring. "I try to support that as much as possible and help out."
Barnes has done that on his own, last season collaborating with Athletes Brand to design a T-shirt with a pair of praying hands wearing batting gloves with the hashtag #belief.
Now Barnes has joined players throughout the Majors in supporting a T-shirt initiative benefiting cancer research that has gone league-wide.
The website 108stitches.com went live on March 17, with 108 Stitches showcasing the "Strike Out Cancer" tees in each team's colors. Each is promoted by a different player who agreed to join Cardinals reliever Jason Motte in a partnership that will benefit multiple charities. Each participating player has chosen a charity that will benefit from the T-shirts sales, and for each shirt sold, $5 will go to the Jason Motte Foundation and $5 to a charity of that player's choice. A full list of recipient charities will be listed on the 108 Stitches website soon, along with a photo of each player rep in his team-colored shirt.
"At the end of the day, it's about reaching people," Motte said. "Baseball is great and everything, but there are other really important things going on out there that affect a lot of people. Wearing these T-shirts shows people that they're not alone. They're not sitting there doing chemo by themselves where no one cares. People do care, whether it's friends, family or baseball players. There are people who this has touched and this has affected. This is something we're trying to do to get the word out there and try to raise money to help."
When Barnes received a call from Motte this offseason, he was eager to join.
"I'm always ready to help and be a part of something for a cause," Barnes said. "It was a great idea, and for every team in Major League Baseball to be a part of it is pretty cool."
Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.