Wednesday, March 12, 2008
He was born in Cincinnati and played his entire Major League Career with The Reds. Arguably, one of the finest shortstops of his era. He became a team leader for his hometown club and helped lead Cincinnati to the 1990 World Series Championship. His 18 Year career ended after, not only capturing that elusive ring, but being named a 12 time All-Star, the 1995 Most Valuable Player and Three Gold Gloves. Barry Larkin was a great player. A legitimate Hall of Fame Candidate--when he becomes eligible in the year 2010. Now, nearly four years after retiring--he's a Special Assistant to Our General Manager. Specifically, one of Larkin's major tasks, is to tutor and mentor Our Franchise Player--Ryan Zimmerman. Barry Larkin is quite the affable man and for two years running--has been kind enough to speak with me, for a few minutes, about Our Number 11.
With that, here we go.
Like last year, I know you are working with Ryan Zimmerman on his foot movement---what does Ryan Zimmerman need to do to bring his game up a notch or two? (SBF)
“Well, I think he just needs to continue working on that foot work. There is no magic pill or secret. He needs to continue to work on everything that made him successful last year. He had a great year last season, despite the errors. Its just a matter of being consistent and continuing to work. One thing about Ryan is that he is not afraid to go out there and put in the time and put in the work. So, I think he will continue to be successful—because he has a professional approach.”
When a player is as talented as Ryan Zimmerman is, how much is God given ability and how much is learned skills? Can you actually quantify that? (SBF)
“A lot of his talent is natural. Everyone has played baseball at some point in their life, maybe—probably. But, when you get up to this high level (The Major Leagues), you have to be able to be consistent in your approach. Then, your results will be fairly consistent. No one is successful on talent alone. He (Zimmerman) works hard and he works hard each and every day. He is very diligent about it and that’s why you see the results that you do. And, you will continue to see those results from him.”
When Ryan had that odd couple of weeks last season—when he appeared to blank out mentally over throwing a ball—is that part of being young--in a funk and having to readjust? (SBF)
“Well, its not just a young person (laughing). I did it late in my career. Everyone has those moments—it just happens—it's one of those things. Those who play the game and understand the game realize how tough it is to play. Every day is a grind, a mental marathon. It’s tough to go out there and be perfect every day. That is not going to happen. The important thing to understand is that you are going to make mistakes. He let that go (he forgot about his mistakes) and finished up strong and became a better player for it.”
Personally—last year you were telling me how The Nationals were slowly becoming "HOME" for you (after playing his entire career with Cincinnati). Are you completely comfortable now? (SBF)
“Yes, I believe so. Someone asked me the other day if I was ready to go back to Cincinnati? And, I asked the question—‘Am I not in Cincinnati now??! (chuckling) We (The Nationals) have so many guys from The Reds Organization over here, from Kearnsy (sic) to Felipe, Jose Rijo—Jim Bowden up top—Bob Boone and now all the Boone Brothers—its just amazing man. I am very comfortable here. And the thing about it is The Front Office people—Stan Kasten, even The Lerners—this is a very laid back and inviting atmosphere. They all make it very easy to come to work. They make it nice. They have not spared any expense. They have made it a very nice situation for the players. The New Stadium is going to be absolutely beautiful. They (Ownership) are spending money on the team. They are re-investing back into the team and building up the farm system. They are doing it the right way. Eventually, we are going to get there and when we get there—we are going to stay there (on top of the standings) for years to come. What is not to like about that?”
You sound just as excited about baseball today, as you did as a player? (SBF)
(Laughing) “Well, the thing about it is that I can stand here and talk about it without having to go out there on the field AND PLAY!! (both of us busting out laughing)”
“You well know, I love the game!! This is home now. It’s all good!"
This is one fun guy. I love Barry Larkin's confidence and especially his expressions. Here is a man that appreciates all that baseball provides in life. Over 20 Years in The Great Game--and still--Mr. Larkin receives great joy from it. And still looks like he could lace up the spikes and go nine innings--even today. Our Washington Nationals are fortunate to have such a tutor for Ryan Zimmerman.