Growing up in Cincinnati, Barry Larkin was a Reds fan. He watched the team. He followed their season. He idolized their shortstop—his hero—Dave Concepcion.
While playing for Cincinnati, Concepcion took Barry under his wing—the veteran protecting the rookie—and taught him one invaluable lesson after another, helping to prepare him for his future as a longtime Red.
“Davey pressed upon me the basic principles of the game,” stated Larkin. “The whole reason why we are here is to teach those basic principles.”
The we, is Champions Sports Complex, Barry’s longtime dream to help with player development and growth. And here, is Orlando, Florida.
The Complex sprawls 92,000 square feet and was established nearly five years ago. It contains four basketball courts, eight volleyball courts, an indoor baseball/softball field, automated batting cages, a weight room, an arcade, and even an outside area designed for football, soccer, and lacrosse. Also inside is the “Game Day Café”, a full-service restaurant operated by Barry’s wife.
One of the more notable additions is an educational room, where kids can go to study and actually take tests, some of which can help detect any sign of possible learning disability, benefiting them inside the classroom in the future.
Larkin serves as President and CEO of Champions Sports Complex, as well as still acting as the Special Assistant to the Washington Nationals General Manager, Jim Bowden. This mostly relates to helping with players in the Nationals’ farm system.
In addition, Barry has become known as one of the “Ambassadors” of Major League Baseball, a lot of which has to do with his work and teachings with different teams and organizations, such as traveling to Italy to work with European teams, and helping out with the Chinese National team, as of late.
“I see it as a responsibility of mine to teach others,” continued Larkin. “I pass on information that Concepcion, Pete Rose, and Eric Davis taught me. Those guys weren‘t just players; they were teachers.” “I asked myself what kind of legacy I wanted to leave, and outside of playing baseball, I wanted to do something substantial, and to socially have an impact.”
Champions Sports Complex is an example of just that. By focusing on every aspect of sports, athletes of any age are able to show up, use any part of the facility at their own time and pace, and work on their game on any given day of the week. It serves as a home to strangers, regulars, and even the occasional professional who happens to stop by. In short, Barry has helped create a learning environment for players eager to learn.
Outside of Larkin, the staff also consists of recognizable faces such as former NBA player Dee Brown, and current Cincinnati Reds outfielder and slugger, Adam Dunn.
Barry has been living in the Orlando area for almost thirteen years now. Even with three Gold Glove awards, twelve All-Star appearances, one MVP award, and a World Series Championship ring in his nineteen year career as a Red, Larkin actually went to the University of Michigan, before any of that, on a football scholarship as a defensive back.
With that type of success in multiple sports, Barry can certainly be looked upon as a credible athlete, role model, and teacher when it comes to impacting someone else’s life.
“I love basketball too, and I’ve watched our U.S. basketball team lose in the past to Puerto Rico and other countries, and it seemed to me that we had lost our idea of fundamentals,” continued Larkin. “What people don’t realize is that professionals are sensational because of the fundamentals. The sensationalism has taken over the professionalism.”
He continued, saying “I want this place to be a training facility to erase that. I want the kids to learn. I want them to grow. I want parents to feel comfortable that their kids are in a safe environment, and I want the city to support what we’re doing here.”
Support for the complex. Support for the kids and the athletes. And support for the game.
The way Concepcion supported Barry in Cincinnati. And for the same reason that the great St. Louis Cardinal shortstop, Ozzie Smith, gave a signed glove to Barry after Smith retired. On the glove it read: “Continue the legacy.”
Contact Champions Sports Complex by calling (407)-351-9700, or by simply visiting their website.
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