Today I start an 11-hour trek to the middle of nowhere. Why, you may ask.
I’m hopping in a car to Cooperstown, N.Y., to watch Barry Larkin be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
When I planned this trip with my family back in January, my girlfriend kept shooting me dirty looks and asking me why I’m making this journey just for a baseball player.
My answer was simple and to the point: “It’s Barry Larkin.”
Growing up in Ohio as a baseball fan, more importantly a Cincinnati Reds fan, I had to deal with a lot of change.
Players changed, managers changed, the front office changed and even the stadium went through name changes and renovations.
But for the bulk of my childhood one thing stayed the same — Larkin would run out to shortstop every opening day.
For Reds fans of my time, Larkin represented something that most fans in the free agent era wouldn’t have: a consistent star.
He was a 12-time All-Star, he was an MVP and a three-time Gold Glove winner, but more importantly Kyle Hobstetter always mimicked him in backyard wiffle ball games. (I know, who needs the Hall of Fame when you can be played by Kyle Hobstetter?).
All this came during 19 seasons, all coming in the city of Cincinnati. He almost left when a trade came up in 2000 that would have sent him to the Mets.
Fans were so outraged that the Reds would even think of sending their hometown hero someplace other than Cincinnati, they loudly let Jim Bowden, then the general manager, know that they wanted their hero to stay.
Luckily he did, and was able to finish his career where it started, and where it always should have ended.
Not many can claim they spent their whole career in one town, but the Queen City native did just that, and always did it with grace and style.
The best example I can think of for the type of man Larkin is comes from an experience I’ll never forget.
It came in 2004, his last season, when my family took a little vacation to St. Louis to watch the Reds and see legendary Busch Stadium.
Early one morning, my dad woke me up and told me to get ready because he wanted to take my mom to famous Union Station.
Union Station is a national historic landmark that was once the largest train station in America, but now has turned into a mall/hotel in downtown St. Louis.
I was not pleased to be leaving my slumber to go see a train station, but then my dad threw this kicker in: it was where the Reds were staying.
I actually ran out the door with my head filled with dreams of autographs and high fives.
When we got to Union Station, there were a lot of people there, but few major league baseball players. But as I walked around I started to see more and more.
My father and I had a 20-minute conversation with Marty Brennaman, who is one of the nicest “famous” people I’ve met. He talked about anything and everything with us.
Next we saw Brandon Larson and Todd Jones, who were happy enough to sign a program I had brought into the mall. Jones actually looked at me and asked if I really wanted his autograph. (The answer is yes because he wrote a weekly column in the Sporting News that was always an amazing read).
Then my dad pointed out the player that most Reds fans at the time dreamed of getting an autograph from: Adam Dunn.
I couldn’t have cared less about the correctly nicknamed “Big Donkey.” But when I looked next to him I saw him.
Larkin was walking away and I knew this would be my best chance at getting to meet one of my baseball idols.
When I walked up to him, I was a nervous wreck. I told him he was my favorite player and he smiled, shook my hand and told me, “Thank you.”
Then, what happened shocked my family, and would surprise most people who have met me before. I gave him my hat.
He happily signed it and said thank you for supporting me and the Reds and that he would see me at the game that night. I looked at my dad and then looked at my hat, and I told my dad thank you for bringing me.
When I got home from the vacation I hung the hat in the closet, vowing to never wear it again. It still sits there today, only moving when I pick it up and look at it when I go home for the holidays.
It will finally move one more time as I plan on wearing it on Sunday when Larkin is announced as the latest member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
He deserves this — he was the generational gap that moved shortstops from defensive specialists to one of the best hitters in the lineup.
But along with the baseball accolades, he’s a good man, and he left a positive mark not only on me but on an entire city.
He’s Mr. Red in my eyes, and he’ll always be the only guy who should have a ‘C’ on his jersey. He’s a Hall of Famer.
But the reason I’m making this trek, and why many are heading to Cooperstown this weekend, is because he was my favorite player. He’s Barry Larkin.
KYLE HOBSTETTER can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2658.
Today I start an 11-hour trek to the middle of nowhere. Why, you may ask.
- Local Sports
THE WEEKLY CYCLE: Holding the key to upset city?
It takes only one game. Few are more firm believers in that fact than the small schools that find themselves in underdog roles year after year.
Locals struggle to make impact
Some days you are the windshield and some days you are the bug.
It is a saying that proved to be all too true for Rowan County on Friday night at the KHSAA Class 2A State Track and Field Championships at the University of Louisville’s Owsley Frazier Cardinal Park.
Fairview senior Kennedy Womack wasn’t her consistent self in Saturday morning’s state tennis semifinals at the University of Kentucky’s Hilary Boone Tennis Complex.
As a result, the top seed fell to Lexington Sayre sophomore Madeline Rolph 6-1, 6-0.
Womack was obviously disappointed with her finish, especially after losing in last year’s state finals, but she was happy for her good friend Rolph.
If Fairview could have fielded a combined track and field team at Saturday’s Class A State Track and Field Championships, the Eagles and Lady Eagles would have had a record day. Instead, the Fairview girls had to “settle” for fifth, while the boys’ claimed 10th.
Womack eliminated in semifinals
Top-seeded Kennedy Womack was eliminated in the semifinals of the State Tournament on Saturday at the University of Kentucky tennis courts.
It looked for a while that a questionable call may have determined the outcome of the game, but in the end, it was just an afterthought.
Boyd County finds senior spark
Losers of four straight, Boyd County was searching for something positive Friday night before beginning postseason play Monday night.
Doubles teams head to semis at state tourney
With rain staying away, the KHSAA State Tennis Tournament got into full swing on Friday afternoon.
Semifinals and finals will be held today at the University of Kentucky Boone/Downing Tennis Complex for boys and girls singles competitions.
McKnight hurdling to Georgetown
Fairview’s Paige McKnight is known for jumping hurdles. She cleared a pretty big one on Thursday.
In front of friends and family at Fairview Elementary School, McKnight signed a letter of intent to run track for Georgetown College.
Several area schools will be represented at State Track and Field championships
Local track and field athletes are ready to try to carry region competition success onto the state stage.
Several area schools will be represented at this weekend’s State Track and Field championships at the University of Louisville. The Class 2A meet is set for today at 3:15 p.m. and Class A competition is scheduled to begin on Saturday at 8:15 a.m.
- More Local Sports Headlines
- THE WEEKLY CYCLE: Holding the key to upset city?