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(Yonhap Interview) Former major league MVP Larkin, ex-player Logan stress 'fun' in baseball

All Headlines 08:59 February 15, 2011

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Feb. 15 (Yonhap) -- What Barry Larkin and Joe Logan, retired baseball players acting as sports diplomacy envoys for the U.S. State Department, try to impart to young players is simple: Have fun playing the game and accept that baseball is "a game of failure."

"My suggestion to whoever is participating in the game of baseball is to have fun because you're going to fail. It's inevitable," Larkin told Yonhap News Agency on Monday after giving a baseball clinic at a Seoul middle school. "All the bad stuff that happens, you've got to be able to let it go and focus on the positive. That's inherent in the game of baseball."

Saying that a .300 batting average -- hitting the ball safely into play only three times out of 10 -- is considered a success in baseball, Larkin added, "If you fail in other sports as often as you fail offensive in baseball, you probably won't be participating in other sports. I think it asks for your personality to become more accepting of things."

Larkin, a 12-time Major League Baseball All-Star and the 1995 National League most valuable player, and Logan, former pitcher with the Montreal Expos organization, are visiting South Korea this week as part of the sports envoy program, sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the State Department. They spent time with the Whimoon Middle School baseball team in southern Seoul on Monday, teaching them drills on hitting, bunting and fielding. They will be traveling to Gwangju and Jeju Island later this week for more clinics.

Logan, who has worked with youth baseball in Orlando, Florida, said baseball has some valuable life lessons to offer to its participants.

"In life, you have to deal with a bunch of failures and you have to pull yourself up and keep moving forward and trying different things to become successful," he said. "And baseball kind of mirrors that."

Larkin, who has come up just shy in the Baseball Hall of Fame induction voting in the past two years, is largely regarded as one of the finest shortstops in major league history. In 1996, he became the first shortstop to hit at least 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in a season. He also helped the Cincinnati Reds win the 1990 World Series and won three straight Gold Gloves from 1994-1996 for his defensive excellence.

But this successful former major leaguer tried to get down to the same level as the youngsters -- literally. At the beginning of the clinic at school, Larkin implored Whimoon players to relax -- they at first stood in "attention" pose, their body upright and their hands behind their backs -- and sit down on the ground with him and Logan at eye level.

Logan noted that it seemed to him that sometimes the young players weren't having a lot of fun but he nonetheless sensed their passion for the game.

"They were energetic, very open and they had great enthusiasm," Logan said. "They were hanging on to words and things we were trying to teach them. I think there's some bright future as far as for baseball and baseball talent in Korea."

Larkin said such formality and the players' show of respect were "refreshing and different" from what he was used to seeing in the U.S.

"The respect for the game and respect for the people is there and that is a refreshing thing and a wonderful thing," Larkin said. "Like Joe said, I think they have enthusiasm. Their hanging on every word shows that they want to get better at this sport."

Larkin and Logan have also visited Colombia and Taiwan as sports envoys. They said the message that they try to get across can vary among different countries, but there's also a common message that they try to convey.

"I think the common thread everywhere we go is about the life skills that you learn and that are sharpened from participating in sports: problem-solving, teamwork, dealing with adversity," Larkin said. "Those are some of the skills that will go on with these kids when they turn pro in something other than sports. And that, I think, is important for us as mentors to point that out to kids. That's what participating in sports is about."

But Larkin said having success in baseball ultimately comes down to having fun.

"When I played the game of baseball, if I wasn't having fun, I wasn't doing well," he said. "I tried to make sure that everyone that participates is participating at that level because it's something that they want to do."

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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