Jan. 12, 2012
By Jon Cooper
– A coach never really knows how much of an impact he or she is making or has made on a pupil. Sometimes it takes decades to find out.
On Monday afternoon, Georgia Tech baseball head coach Danny Hall found out that he’d been a major influence on Major League Baseball’s newest Hall of Famer and former Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin. That’s some 27 years since Hall, then an assistant coach at Michigan, last hit a ground ball to the two-time All-American, 19-year major leaguer and 12-time major league all-star.
Larkin mentioned Hall among three coaches that had an impact on him while he was in Ann Arbor — the other two were head football coach Bo Schembechler, who recruited the Cincinnati Moeller High School product, and baseball head coach Bud Middaugh.
It was nice to be recognized by Larkin, to whom he sent a congratulatory text Monday, and is typical of the Hall of Famer’s unselfishness.
“[It’s satisfying] just to be part of his career at the early stages,” Hall said. “He’s always been very nice to try to give other people credit, but the bottom line is he was a great player and he was a guy who went out there and performed on a daily basis year in and year out.”
Hall remembers the talented youngster quite well.
He remembered that Larkin, who in addition to being recruited to play football, also had been selected in the second round of the ’82 Amateur Draft by the Reds but did not sign. At that point in time, Larkin was considered more of a prospect in the outfield than at short.
Bringing him up to speed at short was where Hall came in. He recalled that it didn’t take long to do so.
“I tried to teach him everything from an infield standpoint,” Hall said. “I think a lot of people at the time thought that he would probably have to play center field because he was a little rough around the edges as an infielder when he came [to Michigan].
“But he was a great athlete, he had a great work ethic,” he added. “He picked everything up. You could tell him something one time and he had it. He picked things up very easily. Probably by the end of fall baseball his freshman year, there was no question that he had a chance to be a great shortstop. He just kept getting better and better and, obviously, the rest is history as they say.”
Hall downplayed his role.
“It was more kind of just polishing the apple,” Hall said. “He was such a tremendous athlete, and, over and above his athletic ability, he’s just a great person, tremendous class. I just happened to be the guy who hit got to him a lot of ground balls and spend some time with him but he’s the guy that performed and deserves all the credit.”
Larkin played three years at Michigan, leaving for the majors after the Reds drafted him fourth overall in the 1985 draft. Hall left Michigan after the `87 season to become the head coach at Kent State then became head coach at Georgia Tech prior to the `94 season. As the years have gone by, his opinion on Larkin hasn’t changed.
He knew that Larkin was an elite talent. Second to none but matched by maybe one.
“I said it and I’ve said it here at Georgia Tech, after I got a chance to coach him and be around him for three years, I said I would never have an opportunity to work with a guy who is that good of a shortstop,” Hall said. “And then I came to Georgia Tech and I saw Nomar [Garciaparra] and I kind of had to change my tune. I said, ‘I’ll probably never get a chance to work with two guys like Larkin and like Garciaparra that were just great shortstops and great people. Up until I saw Nomar, Barry was by far the best shortstop that I had seen in college.”
Having his first Hall of Fame pupil is a thrill and one Hall hopes to see again, possibly with Garciaparra, who is eligible for nomination in 2014, and possibly Mark Teixeira, who is still active.
“[Larkin’s] the first. It’s pretty select company,” he said. “I’d like to think I might have another one somewhere along the line. I put Nomar in that category.”