Sunday, July 22, 2012

Barry Larkin: Breaking down the shortstop's Hall of Fame career

Larkin celebrating the team's four-game sweep
over the Oakland A's in the 1990 World Series

One of the best players to ever put on a Cincinnati Reds uniform will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday afternoon, and he hails from the very city he played for. The man spent his entire 19-year career with the franchise and was a product of nearby Moeller High School. The homegrown product quickly became the pride of the Queen City and still remains to this day as one of the most beloved sports figures the city has ever seen. The man I'm referring to is Queen City legend, Barry Louis Larkin.

The Reds originally drafted Larkin in the second round of the 1982 Draft as a 18-year old out of Moeller, but the talented youngster opted to turn down his hometown team and a $50,000 signing bonus in favor of attending the University of Michigan on a football scholarship instead. Bo Schembechler originally recruited the multi-sport athlete to play defensive back for the Wolverines, but it turns out Larkin never would. It was during Larkin's freshman year at Michigan when he made the permanent switch from the gridiron to the diamond -- a decision that I'd say turned out to be a pretty decent one.

He went on to become a two-time All-American and two-time Big Ten Player of the Year Award winner in his career as a Wolverine while leading his school to two College World Series appearances in 1983 and '84. It was after his junior year in Ann Arbor when he decided that it was time to make the jump to the professional ranks.

As fate would have it, the Reds would draft the collegiate shortstop once again in the 1985 Draft, this time in the first round and with the fourth overall pick. Unlike before, the two sides were able to strike a deal and the rest is (Hall of Fame) history.

Larkin became a fixture in the Reds lineup from the time he broke into the majors as a 22-year old rookie in 1986 until his final year in 2004 at the ripe old age of 40. He revolutionized the shortstop position by exhibiting skills normally possessed by players of other positions. While shortstops in the past were thought of as more of defensive specialists and offensive liabilities, Larkin proved to be an asset in all phases of the game.

He brought to the table a rare combination of speed and power which translated into offensive production unheard of from those that came before him at his position. But his excellence at the plate didn't come at the expense of his glove either. Larkin proved to be just as valuable with his glove as he did with his stick over the years. And in the clubhouse and off of the field, you couldn't find a better leader around baseball than no. 11.

Here's to the man who honorably wore an embroidered "C" on his jersey for many years, here's to the man who provided a plethora of great plays and memorable moments. Here's to "The Captain".

Below are some of his notable career statistics in 2,180 games played:
+ .295 average
+ 198 home runs
+ 960 runs batted in
+ 441 doubles
+ .371 on-base percentage
+ 379 stolen bases
+ 2,340 hits
+ 1,329 runs scored

And here are some of his career accomplishments:
+ 12-time All-Star
+ World Series champion (1990)
+ 3-time Gold Glove Award winner
+ 9-time Silver Slugger Award winner
+ 1993 Roberto Clemente Award winner
+ 1994 Lou Gehrig Memorial Award winner
+ 1995 National League MVP
+ First MLB shortstop join 30-30 club (1996)
+ Reds Hall of Fame & Museum inductee (Class of 2008)
+ National College Baseball Hall of Fame inductee (Class of 2009)

Larkin will join the late Ron Santo in the Hall of Fame when the Class of 2012 is officially inducted in Cooperstown beginning at 1:30et on Sunday. On behalf of Reds Country and the entire city of Cincinnati, we couldn't be prouder.

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