COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — 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. “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 in 19 years with the Reds, 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 third baseman for 15 years with the Chicago Cubs and a broadcaster 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 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.
“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.
Larkin became a two-time All-American who appeared in two College World Series for the Wolverines. Still, he said his experience on the 1984 U.S. Olympic 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.
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, Larkin likely will pay tribute to the man he replaced at shortstop – Dave Concepcion – and other former teammates 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.”