Friday, March 12, 2010

One captain to another?

For the first 100 years of their existence, the Cincinnati Reds did not name a team captain. In 1970, Sparky Anderson changed that history by selecting Pete Rose to be the first captain of the oldest professional baseball franchise. Rose was a Cincinnati native, having played high school baseball (and football) at Western Hills High School. For the Reds, Rose was the epitome of a captain, leading the team by example, through his hard work and hustle, as well as with vocal encouragement. He served as captain of the Reds until he left in 1978 to play for the Phillies.

Davey Concepcion, born in Venezuala, was the second player chosen to be the Reds captain, awarded that honor in 1983 and #13 held it until he retired in 1988. Concepcion had a distinguished career for the Big Red Machine, winning 5 Gold Gloves and being named to 9 All Star teams. He also won the Roberto Clemente award.

Another 10 years passed before a third Reds captain was tapped. Barry Larkin, a Moeller High School graduate, was named Reds captain in 1997. Among Larkin's accomplishments were 3 Gold Gloves, 12 All Star game appearances, the 1995 NL MVP award, the Roberto Clemente Award, and a 30-30 year in 1996. One other amazing feat, in 1988 he struck out only 24 times in 588 at bats. Larkin also learned Spanish so that he could better communicate with teammates.

Since Larkin retired as an active player in 2004, no other member of the Reds has been named to the prestigious leadership role.

It occurred to me today, as I was watching Barry Larkin talk to Joey Votto on the field for at least 30 minutes, that the next Reds captain will surely be Votto, and hopefully soon.

After Larkin hit dozens of practice ground balls to Votto at first base, the former captain walked out to the field where he stood and talked with the current leader of the Reds.

Actually, Larkin did most of the talking, while Joey listened attentively. After all the other players left the field and headed into the building for lunch, Larkin and Votto continued their intense and animated conversation.
Even as a group of Reds players came out for supplemental BP, Larkin and Votto continued their exchange. It was quite a compelling and unique scene.

Joey Votto is talented and is growing into a strong leader of the Reds. His seriousness of purpose is continuously evident. He is the one player who notably shouts encouragement to teammates during practice to recognize great fielding plays or excellent hits. He leads by example through working tirelessly on his own fielding, enlisting other players and coaches to facilitate his drills.

I'm not saying that Votto should be named captain right now. He's probably still too young for that. After all, Barry Larkin waited 10 years as a Reds player before he was named captain. Pete Rose waited seven years. And Davey Concepcion played 13 years before receiving the honor.

But it's clear that Joey Votto is emerging as the next Reds player suitable to be named to that leadership post. His one-on-one session with Larkin today was a fascinating foreshadowing.

1 comment:

  1. Good thoughts. The Reds have been without a designated clubhouse leader (and winning team) for too long.