CINCINNATI - There were a couple of things that Mike Cameron couldn't believe on Monday.
He couldn't believe that it had been 30 years since he coached Barry Larkin. "It seems like yesterday" Cameron told me.
And he couldn't believe that he had coached a player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
"If you would have told me 42 years ago that I would coach a Hall of Fame player, I'd say you're nuts" said Cameron.
What he does believe is that Larkin is a legitimate Hall of Famer, who deserved Monday's honor. Even at Moeller, Cameron says Larkin was a five-tool player. "He could field, throw, run, hit for power and hit for average. He could do it all."
Cameron is retired from a brilliant career as baseball coach at Moeller, but he still assists current coach Tim Held. They assembled the varsity and JV squads on Monday to watch the Hall of Fame announcement.
They gathered in Cameron's former classroom, which is adorned with pictures of his former players. Players like Buddy Bell and future Hall of Fame Ken Griffey Jr. There's a black and white photo of a youngish Larkin in a Crusader uniform, leading off base.
He remembered that Larkin was a fine football player as well and had to weigh a few decisions after high school. Would he play football or baseball in college, or try to compete in both sports?
He said he further muddied the waters in December of 1982 when he spoke with Barry's parents. "You have another problem" he recalls saying. "He's going to get drafted." Cameron says Shirley Larkin responded "My boy is not for sale. He's going to college."
A couple months later, Larkin signed a letter of intent with Michigan. Wolverines Coach Bud Middaugh told Cameron "I'll never see him. He's going to get drafted high and there's too much money to turn down." Cameron replied "you don't know Mrs Larkin. If she says he's going to college, he's going to college."
Despite being drafted after high school by the Reds, Barry did go to college and he played three years with Michigan. He also played with Team USA in the 1984 Olympics. When he was again eligible for the draft, the Reds picked him again. This time he signed with his hometown team. He was in the big leagues less than two years later.
Mike Cameron admits he was a bit nervous as he waited for Monday's announcement. But he says he ran into former Reds broadcaster George Grande this summer. Grande was the emcee for the Hall of Fame ceremonies for 30 years. Cameron asked about Larkin's chances. "He's in" said Grande.
He was right. "It was just a matter of when" said Cameron. "When" came on Monday.
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