Larkin's busy summer reaches fitting end in Cincy

Larkin's busy summer reaches fitting end in Cincy

CINCINNATI -- Barry Larkin spent 19 seasons playing, working and building his credentials to get the phone call from Cooperstown. And when that call finally came one January afternoon earlier this year, that he was elected to the Hall of Fame, Larkin was immediately strapped in for one memorable ride.

Larkin has stood before numerous podiums and cameras around the country and talked about the experience of becoming a Hall of Famer and the years he spent playing and proving himself. On a perfectly splendid Sunday afternoon induction ceremony in Cooperstown, N.Y., last month, he officially became a Hall of Famer and gave a gracious speech that thanked teammates, family and friends.

And now this weekend, in his hometown of Cincinnati, Larkin was back for another celebration of his ascension to baseball immortality. The events, which include a fireworks show in his honor on Friday, will culminate Saturday with the retirement of his No. 11, and another round of thank yous to Reds fans.

"Fifteen minutes ago, I was in Symmes Township, at my mother's house," Larkin explained at a Friday news conference at Great American Ball Park. "I was coming down here and there was all kinds of traffic. That's pretty much summed up how the whole summer has been. It's trying to do a lot in a little bit of time. There's never enough of it. But it's all been positive.

"We've had a lot of great opportunities, a lot of things have happened, a lot of recognition, which obviously has been fantastic. I was able to rekindle some relationships, which has been great as well. The whole thing has been fast. It's been detailed. It's been a lot of stuff. It's been real good busy work."

One weekend wasn't enough for the Reds to recognize Larkin. Leading up to this weekend, the club designated the "11 days of Larkin," which featured commemorative giveaways, prizes and Reds Hall of Fame exhibits. Larkin attended a meet and greet with fans at the Reds Hall of Fame on Thursday evening.

From 1986-2004, all spent with the Reds, Larkin had a lifetime average of .295 with 198 home runs, 960 RBIs, 2,340 hits, a .371 on-base percentage and 379 stolen bases. He was a 12-time All-Star, a three-time Gold Glove Award winner, a nine-time Silver Slugger, a member of the 1990 World Series championship team and the 1995 National League Most Valuable Player. In 1997, he was named the Reds' team captain -- an honor that has since been vacant.

In his third year of eligibility, Larkin gained election to the Hall, appearing on 86 percent of the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballots. He was the only player to be granted admission via the writer's ballot. The late Ron Santo was elected via the Golden Era Committee.

That meant that the majority of the spotlight and attention has fallen on Larkin, who spent his career, and his Hall of Fame tour, spreading the credit.

Several of Larkin's teammates are in town to take part in the retirement festivities, including close friends Dave Parker, Eric Davis and Rob Dibble, as well as Buddy Bell, Bill Doran, Ron Oester and Bret Boone.

Larkin said throughout his weekend in Cooperstown that he couldn't wait to have a second celebration for his fans in Cincinnati that couldn't attend his induction.

"It's significant. It's appropriate that it's the last piece of celebration that happens this summer," Larkin said. "Cooperstown was great. The whole summer was fantastic. It brings it a little more closer to home being here in Cincinnati getting the number retired."

After having much of a year, and an entire summer, dedicated to him by the game of baseball and its fans, the 48-year-old Larkin will be hard pressed to experience anything close to this for the rest of his life.

"I said the other day that I'm really not looking forward to next summer," Larkin said. "This one has just been fantastic."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.