For baseball great Barry Larkin, Saturday’s matchup against Ohio State will not only be a homecoming for the former Cincinnati Reds and Wolverines’ shortstop.
As a Cincinnati, Ohio native, Larkin was never recruited by the local Buckeyes. But Michigan took a chance on Larkin, first on Bo Schembechler’s football team and then for the baseball team. Larkin responded by leading the Wolverines to the College World Series twice and was twice-named All-American.
Now, the Wolverines will do their best to honor one of their greats, retiring Larkin’s No. 16 jersey on Saturday against the Buckeyes.
“People ask me all the time why I didn’t go to Ohio State,” Larkin said in a teleconference hosted by MGoBlue on Wednesday. “I didn’t get recruited by Ohio State. My college roommate Casey Close, who was player of the year in baseball on year, he didn’t get recruited by Ohio State either, and he grew up in Worthington, a suburb of Columbus.”
It’s safe to say Michigan’s chance paid off and served as a blatant, “I told you so,” to its biggest rival.
“Barry was a great collegiate player,” Michigan coach Rich Maloney said. “I can testify to that because I played against him. Barry had a grace about him, a flow to his game that was special. He was a separator — someone who everybody wanted to watch — so you know who the start was when he walked out on the field.”
Larkin, who went on to play 19 years of professional ball for the Reds, still holds five different single-season records at Michigan and is tied for second in triples and third in runs scored.
“He played 19 years in the Big Leagues and, in my humble opinion, he should be a Hall-of-Famer,” Maloney said. “Think of that for a minute. That’s quite an accomplishment, not only as an amatuer player here at Michigan but also as a professional player. To play that long at that position, the way he did, that’s a special player.”
The Wolverines may be feeling a little extra pressure to win Saturday’s game, as they will be at home against Ohio State, and in front of a former professional all-star. But Michigan’s starting shortstop, freshman Derek Dennis, couldn’t be more excited to impress the All-American.
“I actually grew up in central Ohio, so I was a Cincinnati Reds fan,” Dennis said. “My buddy and I used to play wiffle ball in the backyard, and I always used to say that I was Barry Larkin. It is going to be cool to meet him and it is even more significant for myself because he is one of the most famous shortstops out there.”
Despite the anticipated presence of Larkin, Dennis still managed to joke about the weekend’s increased expectations.
“I guess we should try and make him proud by beating Ohio State,” Dennis said. “It’s a big rivalry, so hopefully we can get a win for him.”