Sponsored By Capital One
By Bob Kimball
Hall of Fame baseball player and a former student-athlete at the University of Michigan, Barry Larkin serves as an Advisory Board member for the Capital One Cup, an award honoring the best men’s and women’s Division I college athletic programs in the country across 20 women’s sports and 19 men’s sports. One winning men’s and one winning women’s program will be crowned after the completion of the final NCAA spring championship. Capital One will award a combined $400,000 in student-athlete scholarships and the Capital One Cup trophy to the winning schools. In his role as an advisor, Larkin will educate the sports community and fans about the program and help promote the positive values of college athletics. To see the latest Capital One Cup standings visit www.capitalonecup.com or www.facebook.com/capitalonecup.
Barry Larkin will never experience another spring training like this one.
After all, you only make the Hall of Fame once and this marks the first time the former shortstop attends camp as a guest instructor with the right to tag his autographs with “HOF” — as in Hall of Famer.
It’s been an exciting winter for Larkin – and it shows no signs of slowing.
“I don’t know if the buzz will ever die down,” he told USA TODAY earlier this month. “I was so stunned by the overwhelming support. It’s just tremendous validation.”
Larkin’s Hall numbers in 19 years with the Reds are certainly stellar: 12 All-Star mentions, three Gold Gloves, the 1995 National League MVP trophy and nine Silver Slugger Awards as the NL’s top offensive shortstop.
And of course Larkin earned what he called “the ultimate” for a player when he led the Reds to a sweep of the Oakland A’s in the 1990 World Series.
He’s covered a lot of ground since retiring after the 2004 season, including three years of front office duty with the Washington Nationals, coaching players around the world and analyzing the game on MLB Network and ESPN.
Another job entails speaking on behalf of the Capital One Cup, an award given to the top college athletic programs based on the NCAA championships and the coaches’ polls.
Larkin knows the college game. A football star out of Moeller High School in Cincinnati, he became a two-time baseball All-American with a .361 batting average in three seasons at Michigan before the Reds made him the fourth overall draft choice in 1984.
College sports remain on Larkin’s radar as he follows his son Shane’s career at the University of Miami, not as a baseball player but as a guard on the basketball team.
Shane learned how to hit from Reds greats Pete Rose and Tony Perez, but he shied away from baseball as a grade schooler when a coach questioned his batting stance. “The coach kind of ruined the experience for my son so he decided he didn’t want to play baseball anymore,” says Larkin.
But some of the same adjustments the senior Larkin made at Michigan, his son is making at Miami.
“What he has told me is that as a … freshman, he really has to manage his time,” Larkin says. “The toughest thing is not necessarily the material. It is balancing that schedule of how much time do I dedicate to studying and how much time do I dedicate to practicing.”
Before joining the Reds at spring training, we asked Larkin a few baseball questions:
What was your big-league debut like? (Larkin played his first game on Aug. 13, 1986 under then Reds manager Pete Rose)
He asked me if I had any shoes or any bats … and I said ‘no.’ He let me use his shoes and his bat… And in my first at-bat I get an RBI. After all the buzz (of my first game) he said ‘congratulations on the first (RBI) of your career … now where’s my bat and where’s my shoes?”
What’s your top thrill – Hall of Fame, World Series title, MVP award or just playing in the majors?
I don’t know if anything can top the Hall of Fame. I never even dreamed it was fathomable. Why I played was to try to win a world championship … and in 1990 we were able to do that. … as a ballplayer that was the ultimate.
Since retiring as a player, you’ve worked in the Washington Nationals front office, coached in the World Baseball Classic and done TV work for MLB Network first and now ESPN. Where is your career headed?
Player development is one thing I love. I love the teaching element of baseball and helping young players get the proper information. Working with coaches is something that I’ve done. Getting a teaching curriculum out there is something I’m working on.
I’m working with an organization called Club Diamond Nation. We’re creating a virtual online baseball academy. … to help give out curriculum that is used by professional teams.
I did work in the front office and that was an eye-opening experience.
I don’t think I’m ready to be a manager (but) I wouldn’t put that out of the realm of possibility. I don’t think I’m ready to settle down because I have too much energy and … I want to do too many different things. Right now I work with some major league players (from different organizations) and I’m going to be working with minor league players. I’m going to be working with the Reds in spring training. I like to get my hands dirty. I like to be on the field and a front office guy can’t do that so if they can create a position for me where I can do the front office stuff and go on the field than maybe that will be the way I want to go.
Barry on the Capital One Cup and his involvement:
A huge part of my development was participating in sports (at the University of Michigan) … Anytime I talk to a young kid about the opportunity to go play professionally out of high school or to go to college, I always stress the things that I was able to do as a student-athlete.
(The Capital One Cup brings) to the attention of the sports community the importance of competing in sports and the positive values of college athletics. I think there’s a correlation between men and women who are successful in things other than sports later on in their professional lives … I think a lot of those characteristics that you see in those people were developed in participating in (college) sports.(The Capital One Cup is) an opportunity to showcase … teams that are doing well. To be part of that – that’s an honor for me.
At ESPN, do you like studio work or would you like to do games?
I like the combination. I really enjoy the studio work that’s a great platform to teach and talk about the game. I try to make sure of the play as opposed to critical of the player. I enjoy being in the studio because it allows me to teach and talk about the real fundamentals of the game.
But the energy at the ballpark is something I love as well. I right now am in a really good situation. The combination of the two … that’s in my wheelhouse. I enjoy a little bit of both. That way it stays fresh.