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MLB.com Columnist

Marty Noble

As ever, Larkin prepared for Hall of Fame moment

As ever, Larkin prepared for Hall of Fame moment

As ever, Larkin prepared for Hall of Fame moment
By all measurements, Barry Larkin will stand as one of the game's greats come next Sunday afternoon.

His moments in the sun will include the Reds' World Series championship in 1990, his National League Most Valuable Player award five years later, his captaincy of the Reds -- the only franchise that employed him during his 19 summers in the big leagues -- three Gold Gloves, a 30-30 season and, of course, his induction into the Hall of Fame.

The T's in shortstop, Cincinnati and Cooperstown have been crossed. The I's in his name, Cincinnati and "induction" have their dots. The invitations are out, including ones to President Obama, Derek Jeter and Ken Griffey Sr. "It was the right thing to do," Larkin said Saturday, explaining his invitation motivation. He knows Jeter has shortstopping responsibilities and won't make it, he knows Senior is following Junior's sister, a basketball prodigy, around the country. And he hasn't heard from the White House.

But even if none of the three attend, next Sunday will be the ultimate baseball experience for Barry Louis Larkin. By late that day, the indelible monogram, HOF, will have been stamped on his legacy and he will stand on equal footing with Reese, Rizzuto, Ripken and Rabbit, Wagner, the Wizard and anyone else who ever played the No. 6 position, and with Bench, Morgan, Perez, Red-cetera, Red-ctera, Red-cetera.

And Larkin will appreciate it all, as much as anyone with a key to Cooperstown. He knows what it means, he knows what it took. Nothing from noteworthy to nuance will be lost on him. He is a bright and proper gentleman, unspoiled by his success. And if he has any sense of entitlement, it involves his pending opportunity to address the masses and give them a piece of his mind.

Some inductees dread the speech. Larkin looks forward to the opportunity.

Chances are what he shares with the rest of us next weekend will be valuable. We ought to listen, we ought to hear what he has to say. There is a balance to Larkin, one we ought to recognize and treasure. It won't be merely hits, runs and occasional errors. He will acknowledge his HOF classmate, the late Ron Santo, and express gratitude for those who directed, tutored, prodded and inspired him.

And he will speak about living properly and taking the values of everyday life to the diamond and about playing properly and bringing the values of the game to everyday life.

"I'm a pretty transparent person," Larkin said. "I know what's made me successful." With characteristic modesty, he will identify the ingredients and the steps taken.

Larkin has been successful more than once, and in divergent activities. His skills were such that he might have played football for Bo Schembechler at Michigan. He chose baseball and made himself a gallant and extraordinary player. Now he's a good listen on ESPN. He knows of what he speaks. And he's personable and fun.

He has attacked the challenges of life. He took classes in public speaking to make himself better at what he does now -- and what he did before and after games when he was active. Reporters appreciated his effort. He learned Spanish to communicate with Latin teammates, and they appreciated that.

He worked at it, whatever it was.

He has worked on his acceptance speech, of course. He was pleased with it weeks ago. Nerves are not an issue. "I speak for a living now, it's right in my wheelhouse," he says.

Length of speech is ever an issue -- for the other Hall of Famers. They live in abject fear of another Fisk-like filibuster. Ripken recently telephoned the HOF-designate and under the guise of caring for him, asked two questions: "Are we ready?" and the one that matters most: "How long is it?"

"Not too" was the response.

Larkin looks forward to breaking bread with two idols, Carew and Aaron, and to gaining official status as a peer of JB, Little Joe and Doggie. And he can't know what to expect Sunday night when the "HOF-ers only" dinner takes place, and when Seaver, Carlton, Sutton and the wine lovers have the floor.

But Larkin is prepared. He already has checked the long-range forecast. It said his moment in the sun is to happen under overcast skies with a 40 percent chance of rain.

Players always say they don't worry about what they can't control. Larkin knows he can't orchestrate the weekend, but he can enjoy it.

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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