- Associated Press - Sunday, January 8, 2012

NEW YORK — Barry Larkin plans to play golf in Florida on Monday morning. Then he’ll return to his home in the Orlando area and await the most prized telephone call in baseball.

He is the leading candidate to gain election to the Hall of Fame when voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America is announced.

“It’s a shot of immortality. The best of the game in the history - in the history of the game,” he said Thursday. “To be emblazoned into that history of the game is a tremendous honor.”

A player needs at least 75 percent to gain election. A 12-time All-Star and the 1995 NL MVP, Larkin received 51.6 percent of the votes when he appeared on the ballot for the first time in 2010. His percentage increased to 62.1 percent last year, when he fell 75 votes short as Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven were elected, and his chances figure to be helped by the lack of top newcomers.

“I certainly have some anxiety about it, but not really nervous. I have a great perspective on it,” Larkin said. “I had a chance to speak to Jim Rice, who got inducted on his 15th time, and he really put me at comfort and ease and said, ‘You know, it’s really out of our hands, and there’s nothing we can really do about it. We don’t campaign for it, and it is what it is.’ “

Spending his entire major league career with the Cincinnati Reds from 1986 through 2004, Larkin hit .295 with 198 home runs, 960 RBIs, 2,340 hits and 379 stolen bases. He won three Gold Gloves and the 1990 World Series.

He had hoped to return for a 20th season in 2005 at age 40 but retired after the Reds told him they didn’t want him back.

“In 2005, I wasn’t really sure if I was completely done playing. I still had that question,” he said. “I don’t have that anymore. I know it’s the right move. It was the right decision. It was time to move on.”

And because he retired then, he can join one of baseball’s most select groups. Of the 206 former big leaguers selected for the Hall, just 47 spent their entire careers with a single major league team and only two with the Reds: Johnny Bench and Bid McPhee.

Larkin misses the camaraderie of spending 7 1/2 months a year with teammates but remains around ballparks. He broadcast for the MLB Network from 2009 to ‘10, then moved to ESPN last year. He’s a spring training instructor for the Reds, and he has gone to South Korea and Brazil as an envoy for Major League Baseball and the State Department.

“So I’m always on the field or talking about it,” he said. “I still get an opportunity to go out there and take a ground ball off my chin every once in a while.”



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