I sat in on a teleconference with Barry Larkin hosted by MGoBlue today. Lots of interesting stuff discussed. Barry will be the 6th number retired in Michigan baseball history, with the ceremony happening at Saturday's Ohio State game at 5:45pm. Several former Michigan stars should be in attendance and coach Bud Middaugh.
MGoBlue has full audio for the Buckeyes who can't read.
On the honor of having his number 16 retired:
This is my first number retirement. This is certainly special. I got the call – Rich Maloney called me up, told me they were going to do it. Once again, just an honor. Just a little sad that some of the people that were very instrumental in me come to Michigan, mainly Bo Schembechler, is not around to see this happen. I had an opportunity when I was inducted into the Hall of Honor a couple years ago and I spoke to him before that. It was my last conversations I had with him. It was kind of a sad thing. We had this joke going on about how when I came to Michigan I came to play football.
He used to come out and heckle me during baseball workouts. He'd be at baseball work outs. I used to get on him about that. I told him alright, someday I'll tell this story. I told the story when I was inducted into the Hall of Honor, but he wasn't there to defend himself. But I'm very excited about it.
On being recruited as a football player:
Bo came down to recruit my brother who was a year before me..
Bo spent so much time, he forged a real nice relationship with my mom. And he told my mom he would come down was going to get the next Larkin kid that came out and that was me. He came down and did the whole recruiting thing. He told me about the University of Michigan and told me he would even allow me play baseball.
He told me that Michigan football – no one came to Michigan to play baseball. He told me also that a couple guys were going to leave out of school as juniors. they came back for their senior years. He told me he was going to redshirt me my freshman year.
At that particular time was the first time I was able to just concentrate on one particular game, one particular sport. My learning curve was vertical basically. I got a lot better a lot quicker. And after that year he let me play baseball, I had to tell him that I decided I was not going to play football…
If you didn't know Bo, you certainly didn't want to see that side of him when you tell him you aren't going to contribute to his program. It was nothing nice. It was like a bull in a china shop. If he was going to come across me he would absolutely kill me. I tell this story a lot. It was a fabulous relationship. It was really a big part of why I came to Michigan.
On his relationships with the University even through the Reds organization:
My rookie year in the big leagues, when I left Michigan and went to play in Cincinnati, I didn't really talk to any body. We were in Wrigley Field, not to far away from Michigan, and I want to say some guys from the baseball team came up to the game. But without me talking to anyone, the organ player, who normally plays this organ music – baseball music- he played Hail to the Victors when I came up when I was coming up getting ready to hit. I thought that was the most absolute coolest thing ever. I didn't ask him to do it, I didn't have to ask him to do it. It was as if people were just so in tune to it… It was just amazing. I'm so proud to just have attended the University.
On the #16:
The number 16 was just the number that they gave me. I actually wore number 11 growing up. Bill Freehan had that number and that number was retired. The other number that I wore was number 14. That was for Pete Rose. Number 16 was just the number they gave me my freshman year and there is no real story behind as far as I know.
On Bo's opinion that baseball was a mistake:
Bo, he is… No. [laughs] He did not acknowledge. I'm not even sure it was a mistake. He told me often when he would heckle me that he could strike me out anyway. He was a lefty and had a nice little curveball, supposedly. That's what he told me. He said he would intimidate me. He would throw me up and in, get me off the plate, throw a back door curve ball. Strike me out just about every single time.
On coming up north:
People ask me why I went up there to play baseball. I didn't. I went up there to play football. That was really my intent… I knew that I wanted to go to Michigan… One of the things that really attracted me to Michigan was the helmets. It was wanting to wear the winged helmets and be part of the program. I loved it. I went up there because of the condition of the football program and that they had a good baseball program as well. It really solidified things for me.
On his experiences as a student:
It was great. I lived in West Quad my freshman year. Casey close was my roommate. it was great. a controlled environment. There were baseball people around us […] I had great people, great football people around me […]. It was a great campus and a great program to be a part of. I really enjoyed it.
On Bo heckling:
He didn't really sit around the batting cage. […] Bo's M.O. was this. Bo would come to practice on his way the indoor football field. […] He would take a circuitous route, he would walk out of the Academic offices, walk outside of the baseball stadium, inside the first base line, find the plate, down the third baseline, heckle me, and then walk out into the indoor football building.
He wouldn't sit around there while everybody was around. He would go and kind of stand in the stands. It was funny because we would be out there a lot of times, and it would be cold, it'd be windy, it'd be raining or whatever. Bo would wear a parka. He would look like Darth Vader with his parka pulled over his head. He would walk in and he would yell at me, "LARKIN!" and I'm going "oh my goodness, who in the world is that?"
Eventually, I convinced my teammates that it was Bo. So I had one time, I had one of the kids go up into the stands and go look up underneath the parka. He came back, he was like "this is unbelievable, that really is Bo Schembechler."
On if he would ever talk back to Bo:
I would just kind of laugh, or look at him and do whatever. But not really. It was Bo for crying out loud. It was Bo Schembechler.
On his relationship with Bud Middaugh:
I credit Bud a lot on giving me the foundations. He helped me out tremendously. He also was very caring and supportive. It was a little different being the head baseball coach because he was the boss. The relationship was a little more challenging than my relationship with Bo. Bo would joke a lot with me, but Bud, the success of his program was predicated on me going out and doing well. It was a little different relationship, but definitely one of caring.
He and his wife Dee, they opened up their home to us players. He took the time, he knew I was the only African American player on the team at the time. There were some issues that came up that he was very sensitive to. Once again, he was a person that opened up everything to me and just made me feel comfortable. I give him a lot of credit for – almost like tough love. Helping me out, helping me grow as a person, challenging me, and being sensitive to different issues that I was faced with.
On Ohio State as a Bigger Rival:
It was always a thing for Ohio State being the fact that I was from Cincinnati. People ask me all the time why I didn't go to Ohio State. I didn't get recruited by Ohio State. My college roommate Casey Close, who was player of the year in baseball one year, he didn't get recruited by Ohio State either, and he grew up in Worthington, a suburb of Columbus. There was always being from Ohio, there was always that Ohio State-Michigan thing.
But rivalry was the rivalry. The rivalry was always the best team of the time. Whoever we had to beat to win the game was who we had to beat to win the game. As a player, I didn't buy into getting up a little more for that particular series. […]
I thought you play the way you play regardless of who you play. You don't try to create any more. I thought that was a media driven thing, and now that I'm part of the media, I understand that it really is. It wasn't anything extra special other than the fact that a lot of people would bring it to my attention that I was from Ohio and playing against the [sarcasm] Ohio State University.
On future hopes:
I think one thing that I'd love to be able to do is say that I am a member of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. That's one thing that I can honestly say that I really want to happen. All of the other accolades are fine; those are great. But to be in the class of the best of the best, that's somewhere that I definitely want to be.
As far as an analyst, I really enjoy the opportunity to teach. That's what I really love to do with baseball – I love to instruct and teach. I do work as an analyst with the [MLB] Network. I also do some cultural exchange programs. I build a baseball academy. I instruct kids – travel the world instructing kids. My last tour was in Taiwan. I have an education company. We've combined education and sports to make it a fun, learning experience.
I just want to stay involved. I really enjoy the game of baseball. I enjoy teaching the game of baseball. I enjoy pointing out how difficult it is, and enlightening people on why things happen the way they do during a game. I don't think there are enough attention paid to the fundamentals of sport. I just see this as an opportunity to drive home the attention and due diligence to that dynamic of fundamentals.