Hall of Fame Shortstop Barry Larkin Surprises Softball Team


How would you like to spend one hour playing softball with former Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin? Well, that’s exactly what the Dukes of Dayton co-ed softball team from Centerville, Ohio got to do when they entered and won an Instagram contest created by Buffalo Wild Wings. Throughout the entire year, Buffalo Wild Wings is putting on a series of events called “Alive Events.” For this particular event, Buffalo Wild Wings partnered with MLB to sponsor the sweepstakes.

Larkin greets the team.

On Monday, June 29, the team of two years, made up of friends and neighbors and ranging from ages 18-50, knew they would be meeting a celebrity at Clippard Park in Colerain, but they had no idea who it would be. They arrived close to five p.m. and began to warm up by tossing the ball back and forth between each other. Larkin arrived about fifteen minutes later, casually walking up to the field and asking, “You have room for one more?” It was quite the surprise for these fans who no doubt watched the Hall of Famer throughout his entire career.

“You see these guys on TV and you might see them at a game or something like that, but to be able to talk to him one-on-one and see that they’re down-to-earth people,” Bob Buzzard, the coach and a player said. “That was pretty neat.”

Larkin understands what Buffalo Wild Wings is doing in connecting athletes with people involved in sports and that’s why he’s eager to participate in events like this.

“When I walked on the field today and the people saw me, I saw the excitement in their eyes, which was really awesome,” he said. “It’s just fun to be a part of that program. It’s something good and it’s clean and I support it wholeheartedly.”

Larkin speaks in Portuguese to woman while coaching her through at-bat.

After a few warm up tosses with the team, Larkin had them all take the field. He hit some balls to them and had them try to make 27 outs in a row. The team got to nine before one of the players overthrew home plate. Next, Larkin had the women, five in total, each take a turn batting while he gave them tips. One woman seemed timid at the plate and then kept swinging and missing, so Larkin spoke Portuguese in jest to her while showing her how to bat. It made for some good laughs by all, including the woman.

Next, Larkin had the three best power hitters on the team compete in a home run derby. Finally, after talking with the team for a couple minutes and telling them stories about his recent travels to watch international players, he had them try a hand-eye coordination game where everybody got in circles and had to throw three or four balls between them without dropping any. It proved challenging, but they were still able to laugh and joke with Larkin.

Although it’s usually young baseball players whom Larkin interacts with, he enjoyed this time with an adult team. His favorite part about interacting with fans, especially those involved in sports, is seeing the teamwork and the competitive spirit among them.

“We played a little game of nine outs, and you could see the competitiveness come out because nobody wanted to be the one to drop the ball,” he said. “I talk to people all the time about life skills that are developed by participating in sports, and particularly team sports. And you could just see some of those things on the field today.”

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When they were finished on the field, Larkin went with the team to eat and hang out at Buffalo Wild Wings, as part of the event.

“I think it’s a fantastic opportunity,” Larkin said. “[For] a lot of people, this will be their only real interaction with a former professional baseball player. Hopefully it can be impactful and they [can] have a good time tonight.”

Larkin will be back in Cincinnati in a week for the All-Star game and he’s definitely looking forward to having the national spotlight shine on his hometown. For Larkin, this year brings back memories of 1988, his first All-Star game and the last time Cincinnati hosted the event. He’s hoping that some of today’s Reds players are able to shine, particularly Todd Frazier in the Home Run Derby.

“I really hope that some of the players get a chance to play,” Larkin said. “I’m assuming Aroldis Chapman’s going to be on that team, so he’s going to be able to experience it. And hopefully some other guys, Brandon or Joey or Jay or whomever can experience that feeling. It is so special to go out there and play in front of your hometown and represent your home club with that much energy in the stadium. It’s going to be an exciting time.”

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