The ballfields of the Pensacola Bay Area served as the Opening Day venue for a new phase in Barry Larkin's baseball life.
Larkin, a 12-time All-Star shortstop during his 19-year career with the Cincinnati Reds, conducted a clinic Saturday at the Santa Rosa Sportsplex during the All-Star Productions Barry Larkin Wood Bat Classic. The 94-team ASP tournament was the first event for Scout Day, Larkin's new player development, showcase and tournament program.
"We're trying to get the proper information out there," said Larkin, who also works in the Washington Nationals' organization. "Share the story of a 14-year-old kid who played baseball when he was five or six years old until he met a coach who told him (Cincinnati greats) Pete Rose and Tony Perez -- the guys who taught him how to hit -- didn't know what they were talking about. So we're trying to bring the proper information to the actual coaches who are coaching the kids."
Larkin, 42, looked as fit as he did when he retired in 2004 as he gave instruction to a pair of 13-year-olds Saturday afternoon at Pelican Park.
"He's still a magician," said Pensacola Pelicans manager Mac Seibert, who jokingly tried to talk Larkin into suiting up at shortstop for the Pelicans this summer. Seibert serves as a Scout Day consultant and helped coordinate Larkin's visit.
Larkin grew up as a Reds fan in Cincinnati, but said he never got the chance to learn directly from the local heroes. He hopes his program brings that opportunity to youths across the nation.
"The impression I have from when I was a youngster was I had a bunch of dads out there coaching me and a lot of dads that relied on their own experience," he said. "I had a dad who volunteered his time -- which I was grateful for -- but I can tell you first-hand, that doesn't work.
"I think we are the trail blazers. We are the entity that is out there trying to make a difference. All of our personal experiences, we've put together to try to fill a need. And that need is getting the information out there."
Larkin reminisced about some of his meetings against players with area ties.
One fan reminded Larkin of Pensacola native Mark Whiten's record-setting night against the Reds on Sept. 7, 1993. Whiten set single-game records with four home runs and 12 RBI to helped the St. Louis Cardinals beat Cincinnati in the second game of a doubleheader.
"The last two were off (feisty reliever) Rob Dibble," Larkin remembered. "I'm surprised he didn't get hit in the head."
Larkin finished his career with three Gold Gloves, six Silver Slugger awards, the 1995 National League MVP award, and a World Series ring from his role on the Reds' 1990 championship team.
He takes most pride in his time as Cincinnati's captain.
"I always had a good gift of gab," said Larkin, who learned Spanish to help him communicate with the Reds' Hispanic players better. "And I was always able to identify with a lot of people about the goodness of the game and try to put the proper stuff out there about doing things the right way."
Barry Larkin on ...
Ken Griffey Jr.: "All Century. Obviously he is getting older and has had some injuries the last couple years. Hopefully he is past that. When he didn't have the injuries, the guy was incredible. Just the sweetest swing and the purest baseball player I've ever been around."
Riverfront Stadium/Cinergy Field: "There were some big rats in that stadium! But it was home. That's where I grew up watching the Reds playing and fantasizing about being a player and eventually being a player there."
Pete Rose: "Only the guy who has the most hits all-time in major league baseball history. I was saddened to see he did admit to betting on baseball and betting on the Reds to win. I've got my own feelings about that, but publicly I will say he is only the all-time hits leader and he definitely belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Barry Bonds: "He is and was a great player. I remember going to a recruiting visit with him to Arizona State, him and (current Chicago White Sox general manager) Kenny Williams. I remember him being a really loud person at that time, very boistrous and an attention-getter. Throughout his entire career, the same way. He did it with his style of play. He has calmed down quite a bit, but his style of play is still there. I only have admiration for him. What he has done off the field, I don't know so I won't comment. But he's still doing it at 40-something years old and he's still a threat."