Larkin's return to Cincinnati bitter and sweet for him
By Matt O'Donnell
Sunday, July 20, 2008
CINCINNATI — Barry Larkin had mixed emotions about returning to his hometown team, with which he played the entirety of his 19-year baseball career.
Larkin reluctantly left the Cincinnati Reds and retired from baseball at the end of the 2004 season after then-general manager Dan O'Brien did not offer him a contract.
Although he had the opportunity to play with the St. Louis Cardinals, Larkin took a job in the Washington Nationals' front office, where he has spent the past three seasons.
He made his first official post-retirement appearance in Great American Ball Park on Saturday, July 19, to be inducted into the Cincinnati Reds' Hall of Fame along with outfielder Cesar Geronimo, pitcher Joey Jay and front office executive Garry Herrmann.
Larkin received the loudest and longest ovation out of any of the current or former Reds' Hall of Fame inductees, which included Johnny Bench, Tony Perez and Davey Concepcion.
"It's bitter and it's sweet," Larkin said before the on-field ceremonies. "The hardest thing that I had to do was leave knowing that I wasn't coming back. It's been a great thrill for me to come back in this capacity."
Larkin was drafted by the Reds out of the University of Michigan in 1985 and made his Reds' debut in 1986. In his career Larkin hit .295 with 198 home runs, 960 RBIs and 379 stolen bases.
He won nine silver sluggers, three gold gloves and was named the National League's Most Valuable Player in 1995. He was also an integral part of the 1990 World Series championship team.
"I saw a lot of potential in him," Concepcion said. "He kept up the tradition of Dave Concepcion, Leo Cardenas and Roy McMillan."
Although he has switched organizations for the first time in his professional career, Larkin said he has stayed loyal to the Reds.
He has worn Washington National shirts, windbreakers and pants, but said the he has never worn another uniform.
When asked if he ever thought about returning the Reds, Larkin did not hesitate.
"There has been plenty of thought about coming back," Larkin said. "I never envisioned leaving Cincinnati at all, at any point.
"The opportunity just hasn't presented itself yet. I've been working with the Nationals for the last three years, but my contract is up at the end of the year, so I'll be a free agent."
Team owner Bob Castellini has been a strong advocate of bringing back former players in the past. And count second baseman Brandon Phillips as one of those hoping that Larkin returns.
"It'd be like a dream come true," Phillips said. "Just to ask him questions, pick his brain whenever I see him. It'd just be a beautiful thing."