Larkin likely to fight his emotions at induction

When Barry Larkin takes the podium to speak at his Baseball Hall

of Fame induction, his emotions likely will be off the charts.

Not only will his mother and father be front and center, his

teenage daughter, Cymber, will sing the national anthem Sunday.

”I’m really excited about it. It’s definitely something

special, but I’ll be nervous as heck for her,” the former

Cincinnati Reds shortstop said Tuesday on a conference call. ”I’ve

heard just about everybody in the world is stopping by.”

Larkin, who retired after the 2004 season with a .295 career

average, 2,340 hits, 1,329 runs scored and 379 stolen bases, was

elected this year on his third try, receiving 495 votes (86.4

percent). He’ll be inducted along with the late Ron Santo, a star

third baseman for 15 years with the Chicago Cubs and a longtime

broadcaster for the team after he retired in 1974. Santo died in

2010 at age 70.

Larkin, whose father, Robert, coached him in several sports, was

an honor student and a two-sport standout in his senior year at

Cincinnati’s Moeller High School. Although he wanted to go to

college, Larkin said he was torn because his hometown Reds drafted

him in the second round of the 1982 draft, and they offered more

than his family ever dreamed of.

”They were throwing money at me that we had not seen,” he

said. ”That was really the tough part for me. I remember asking my

mom and dad, `You guys need this money? Do you want this money?’

They were like, `No!’ Once they said no, it was very easy for me to

go to college.”

So, Larkin went to Michigan on a football scholarship to play

for coach Bo Schembechler’s Wolverines. But Larkin’s dream of

becoming a standout defensive back was doused when Schembechler

redshirted him as a freshman, and he quickly gravitated toward

baseball.

Much to the chagrin of an incredulous Schembechler, Larkin

walked away from football for good when his baseball skills

improved during that year away from the gridiron, and he became a

two-time All-American who appeared in two College World Series for

the Wolverines. Still, despite his accomplishments, Larkin said his

experience in Los Angeles on the 1984 U.S. Olympic baseball team

spurred him to become great. He played in only three of the team’s

five games and batted a woeful .143.

”That really upset me, made me tell myself, `All right, I’m not

playing around anymore. I’m going to be much better. I’m going to

make them have to play me,”’ Larkin said. ”I think that’s when it

really clicked for me. After that, I felt like I got a lot better,

a lot more focused.”

Drafted again by the Reds in 1985, this time the fourth pick

overall, Larkin finished seventh in the National League Rookie of

the Year voting in 1986 despite playing just 41 games.

In his speech on Sunday, Larkin likely will pay tribute to the

man he replaced at shortstop – Dave Concepcion – and other former

teammates like Buddy Bell who helped him adjust to major league

life as a rookie.

”When I got to the big leagues, I still needed some

fine-tuning,” said Larkin, who, as a child and Cincinnati fan,

practiced sliding headfirst like Pete Rose, wielded his bat like

Tony Perez, and practiced one-hop throws to first base on concrete,

imagining he was Concepcion.

”My learning curve was pretty steep. Davey knew I was gunning

for his job. I could not believe how much he welcomed me, accepted

me and helped me.”

Though Larkin played his entire 19-year career with the Reds, he

was nearly traded toward the end. But he nixed a deal in July 2000

that would have sent him to the Mets because he wanted a three-year

contract and New York refused. Of course, that wasn’t the first

time Larkin’s name surfaced in a prospective trade. The previous

year, he was caught off-guard while on a road trip to Los

Angeles.

”The clubhouse kid comes over to me and gives me a jersey with

Larkin on the back, and it was a Dodger jersey,” he said. ”I

asked him, `What is that? Do you have somebody named Larkin in your

franchise?’ He said, `No. It’s for you. We were that close to a

deal and they had told us to make up the jersey because the press

conference was going to take place in a couple of days and they

wanted to make sure that we were prepared for it.”’

The deal, of course, didn’t pan out. Much to the benefit of the

Reds.

”I had no idea,” Larkin said, ”I had no clue.”