A Baseball Hall of Famer revealed Friday at the Erwin Center that he was nearly a Texas Longhorn.
Cincinnati Reds icon Barry Larkin, whose son Shane is the star point guard for Miami, told the American-Statesman that he had a difficult college decision back in 1982.
“It really came down to the wire between Texas and Michigan,” said Larkin, the shortshop who was enshrined in Cooperstown last summer. “I have family in Houston, and I loved Austin and the University of Texas. The program, the facilities, everything was great. In the end, I picked Michigan, but it was a tough call.”
The catch is Larkin was recruited by both schools as a football player first: a defensive back. The Cincinnati native gravitated to baseball once he got on campus. Not a bad choice.
Larkin’s brother Stephen did play baseball for the Longhorns in the early 1990s. An older brother Byron was a second-team All-American basketball player at Xavier. And the oldest Larkin brother, Mike, was captain of the 1985 Notre Dame football team.
Barry and his wife Lisa attend many of Shane’s games. They might be traveling all the way to the Final Four.
“We’re excited. The team has a lot of ability and maturity,” Barry said. “But in the NCAA tournament, you just never know. One bad night and it could be over.”
Out of the cold
Fans of the Big Ten teams in town, Minnesota and Illinois, were elated to find temperatures in the 70s.
“It was minus-11 when we left Green Bay,” said Mike Bates, whose son Adam is a Gophers manager, accounting for the family’s allegiance to Minnesota rather than Wisconsin.
“We’re having a good time down here. It’s warm, the city is beautiful and the people are friendly.”
Driving them batty
Visitors are amused, intrigued and somewhat nervous about the deluge of Mexican-free tailed bats. One of those bats got loose in the Erwin Center during Minnesota’s practice, sending players scurrying as it hovered around the court.
“I couldn’t believe it when I heard bats are a tourist attraction down here,” Illinois fan John VanderCamp said.
Pacific is where?
If you ask where the University of Pacific is, nearly everyone polled said, “Well, it’s gotta be by the ocean, right?” Wrong. Pacific is in Stockton, Calif., about 90 miles east of the Bay Area. But the school used to be close to the ocean. It started off in Santa Clara, then was moved to San Jose before settling in Stockton in 1923.
“That confuses a lot of people,” said Pacific grad Julie Jensen. “We’re not on the beach, like Pepperdine (in Malibu).
“It was about 1,700 miles in flights to get here. We knew it was a long shot for the team, but we’re loyal fans. And it was a chance to see Texas.”
A pitch for Horns
Northwestern State cheerleaders, supporting their underdog from Natchitoches, La., tried to get Texas fans on their side by doing the hook ‘em, Horns sign. “At least they were not doing the upside-down Horns,” Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News tweeted.
Coolest sight: Demon fans holding up pitch forks with (Florida) toy alligators in them.
Although the crowds inside the Erwin Center were large, scalpers were taking a bath, selling seats for well under face value. “Buy high, sell low - that’s a bad combination for us,” Nick Jones said.