Cape Catfish introduce first-time manager Steve Larkin ahead of inaugural season
It'll be a season of firsts for the Cape Catfish.
Not only is it the inaugural season for the collegiate summer league baseball team, it's the first head coaching job for manager Steve Larkin.
The longtime professional player has spent the past three summers coaching in the Prospect League. This time around, he won't be the hitting coach. Instead, he's the headman.
It's a challenge he looks forward to, and believes he's prepared for.
Larkin arrived in Cape Girardeau on Friday and spoke during a press conference at Dogwood Social House. It was his first interaction with the media since his hiring was announced in October, and he outlined his coaching philosophy.
"Some days, you have to be developmental," Larkin said. "Some days you kind of have to pat them on the back. Some days you have to give them a swift kick. It's that everyday thing. The beauty of baseball, for me, is you come out and do it every day. You get to do this again tomorrow. That's the best part for me."
Larkin was a hitting coach and infield/outfield coach for the Chillicothe Paints last summer as they finished with a 34-26 record and advanced to the playoffs. The previous two summers, Larkin was the hitting coach for the West Virginia Miners. During his second year, the Miners were second in the Prospect League in batting average and total hits.
While he wasn't the manager any of those summers, Larkin said he had a hand in more than hitting.
"Where I was coaching, we kind of did everything together almost," Larkin said. "It's going to be kind of new, but I've kind of done it before."
Larkin also has coached the Dayton Docs in the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League and has traveled internationally to take part in MLB instructional camps.
Larkin is the younger brother of Baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin. The two played together in the final game of the 1998 Major League Baseball regular season with Barry at shortstop and Steve at first base. It was Steve's sole MLB appearance and he went 1-for-3.
The younger Larkin played collegiate baseball at Texas and was a 10th-round pick of the Texas Rangers in the 1994 Major League Baseball draft. He played professionally until 2005.
"He comes from a great baseball background as a player and he's also had several successful years in coaching, most recently three years in a row with the Prospect League in different cities that we feel like really, really sets us up for a great first-year coaching experience," Catfish general manager Mark Hogan said. "We're thrilled to have him with his experience and of course the class he brings to our organization."
It was a busy day for Larkin, who had a 6 a.m. flight out of his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, and following the press conference, took part in a meet-and-greet at Dogwood before he and Hogan headed over to Capaha Field to watch the Southeast Missouri State baseball team play Jacksonville State. Three Redhawks -- Andrew Keck, Turner Fritts and Peyton Faulkner -- are on the Catfish roster, and one more could be added. Prospect League rules allow as many as four players from one college and limit teams to 32 players. The Catfish currently have four open roster spots.
For many of the players, it will be a new experience, markedly different from college.
"It's kind of like pro ball," Larkin said. "In college, during the school season, the guys only play a couple times during a week and they play on the weekends. The Prospect League, you play every day. You get a day off a week maybe. But a lot of these guys, if they get drafted, or they get picked up to go to pro ball, then they're going to be playing every day. The thing I want them to get used to is that everyday grind, how to work.
"I just basically tell them, this summer you're pro ballplayers, you're just not getting paid. Every day get a routine, make sure you do it every day. If you kind of run out of gas sometime or need a break, then say something."
The players report to Cape Girardeau around May 27 and 28, according to Hogan. A few days later, on May 30, the Catfish play their first game against the Quincy Gems in Quincy, Illinois.
June 4 is the first Catfish home game.
"The nature of the sport is every time you come to the ballpark you learn something new, whether you're a player or coach," Larkin said. "Wins and losses, I don't really have expectations for right now. I just want to come out, have the guys work hard. I'm going to work hard."