CRAWFORD | Conversation: Barry Larkin on his new Reds' minor lea - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Conversation: Barry Larkin on his new Reds' minor league role

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Here's how smooth Barry Larkin is. Several of us were talking to him Friday afternoon in the third-base dugout at Louisville Slugger Field, where he is spending some time in his new official position of roving minor league instructor for the Cincinnati Reds organization, when a loud piece of groundskeeping equipment rolled by.

Larkin, who was talking, stopped mid-sentence, waited for the noise to die down, and picked right back up.

“That's that TV background,” he said, smiling.

There are not a lot of guys who think to do that, Hall of Famers or not. It seemed as natural to the 12-time All-Star shortstop as turning a double-play.

For the past six years, Larkin has been a baseball analyst for ESPN. But he never stopped working with the Reds, and in recent seasons has been a guest instructor during spring training. This year, he talked to general manager Walt Jocketty about an expanded role, and early this month the details were worked out.

Larkin, 51, has stayed busy in addition to his TV duties. In 2013, he managed Brazil's team in the World Baseball Classic. When the Tampa Bay Rays' job came open last year following the departure or Joe Madden, he talked to them about the job.

It's not a stretch to see Larkin as a major league manager. In fact, it's not a stretch to see him as a good one.

He's always been a consummate professional. During a short conversation, he talked about his new role with the Reds, the upcoming All-Star game in Cincinnati, and what he hopes to bring to the table as he visits the club's minor league outposts.

While the parent club is struggling, Louisville has enjoyed a recent surge. Despite a ninth-inning rally, the Bats dropped a 6-5 decision to Pawtucket Friday night, after beating the Paw Sox 6-5 in extra innings on the road the night before. Still, the Bats have won seven of their past nine.

Saturday night will be “Super Hero Night,” with the home team wearing Batman-esque jerseys. Sunday Night kids eat free, get to run the bases after the game and can enjoy the Olate Dogs act, as well as postgame fireworks. And Monday will be Military Appreciation Day with a 4:05 p.m. start, team rally towel giveaway and the appearance of the replica Vietnam War Memorial Wall.

Larkin will be in Louisville throughout the current homestead, after spending last week in Pensacola, Fla., with the Class AA affiliate. A short Q&A:

Q: You've been involved with the Reds in the past, been to spring training and worked with guys, how do you see this new role?

LARKIN:
It's just a title now. It's just a formality. It's something I've done for many years, I just didn't go to spring training last year. But in years past I've been part of spring training. In the offseason I work with players, and player development, something I've always done. The last 5 or 6 years I've had a chance to do TV. But when I'm not doing TV I'm on the field working with players whether its during the season or offseason.

But I'm pleased to be back in a formal role. I really enjoy my relationship with the players and trying to help the players. Of course, it's a little bit different depending on what players you're working with and what level they are. The good thing is that I've been in the bushes, I've been in the minor leagues. I know what it is to be so close and still feel like you're so far away from the big leagues. I understand that anticipation and anxiety of waiting for that phone to ring and that call to be made to say that you're being called up to live out your childhood dreams. So I can relate to these guys and feel some of the same things that they're going through. Today and over the next few days I'll share some of my experiences with them. It's not so much about the Xs and Os. All the guys at this level know how to play. It's just about trying to help them find that something extra to get them over the hump and into the big leagues.

Q: You've had a chance to do some big-time TV analysis, and you've gotten into managing and instructing on the field. I wonder if there's a preference for one over the other, or if you find yourself missing being on the field when you're doing TV?

LARKIN:
It's all good. I enjoy all of it. It's a unique situation to be able to do both TV and baseball. It speaks volumes that these guys still trust me even though they know that I've been up there with the microphone and on TV. So, you know, it's a unique perspective to be able to be down on the field and work with guys, and really still have a personal feel on how fast the game is, and how much power is generated. That's one thing that you lose when you go up to the booth is the real feel for the game, the speed of the game. It looks so much slower up there. You don't feel that fastball hit the catcher's mitt or the power of what's really happening when the ball comes off the bat, or the force of the ball when you catch it on the field. You lose that perspective. So it's a unique situation to be able to do both. I enjoy both. But it's great to be on the field, it's what I've done my entire life. But I also enjoy the TV experience.

Q: What's your message to players at Louisville as opposed to players at different stops along the Reds' system?

LARKIN:
It's very much is different here in the fact that guys that are here, Xs and Os are not so much. The technique is not so much the message. The message is maybe the mental things that go along with the physical technique or the routines that they already have or have established. It's different from what what you may talk about in, say, Dayton, where you talk about a routine, and you get, ‘What is that? How do I get that?' So, it is very, very different. But I've seen that and I was really expecting that. It's been fairly consistent. I'm happy to say, though, that guys are quick to pick up on some of the terminology and verbiage that we're using. The one thing that I do as an instructor and evaluator is challenge players to not only be better physically but be better mentally. So that message has been received, and guys are dealing with it well and that message is the same no matter where I go.

Q: With the All-Star game in Cincinnati, how special will that be not just for the organization but its fans?

LARKIN:
As a player my first All-Star game that I was able to participate in was in Cincinnati, in '88. So it was very special then. I remember the roar of the crowd, I remember the electricity in the city, I remember how much excitement was there, during that time. I just remember that feeling of excitement throughout the city, and being a baseball player and growing up there being a fan, I appreciate that certainly from a baseball player perspective, but also as a fan and a native Cincinnatian as well. I'm excited that it's going to happen again. I figured when they got a new ballpark some years ago that it was something that would happen in the future. Hopefully we have a few representatives from the team that are playing. Because I'll tell you, going out there, I remember myself and Chris Sabo were on that All-Star team, when they announced us, it was phenomenal to be a player and feel the pride of representing your hometown team in the All-Star game. I think it's a very special time. I think the city is looking forward to it. I still have family there, so I know that they're looking forward to it. The city is abuzz about it. A lot of preparations are being made. I'll be there, as well. It's going to be a good time, for the players who do make it and are able to represent the Reds, and certainly for the city and fans. It's a tremendous honor to represent your team. It was special for me because it was my first one, and my first one being in my hometown made it incredibly special. Just being on the Reds team and being able to wear that uniform and all the fans, 58,000 plus standing-room  only, it was pretty doggone special. I don't know if there's another way to describe it.

Q: Todd Frazier in the Home Run Derby. Does he have a shot?

LARKIN:
Well, you know, Fraz has a flair for the dramatic. He's going to have some stiff competition. I know, this, the ball will be traveling, and there will be some majestic home runs hit. People that are going to be sitting in the Ohio River sitting outside waiting for a ball, I'm going to predict that I'm pretty certain that few balls will reach out there. So it'll be fun. My hope is that he has a good time with it, but he's a fun-loving guy so I expect him to do well.

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