Shortstop 'close' to making decision

CINCINNATI -- Barry Larkin's loyalty is nudging him toward

The All-Star shortstop would like to play another season, but
can't commit himself to play for anyone other than his hometown
team. He has spent his entire career with the Cincinnati Reds, who
rejected his overtures to return for a 20th season.

Larkin said Thursday night that he has turned down offers to
start for several other teams because he can't envision himself
playing for anyone but the Reds.

"I thought eventually I'd be able to say, yeah, I can do
this," Larkin told The Associated Press in a phone interview from
his home in Orlando, Fla. "But I'm big on loyalty. I couldn't come
to grips with making a 100-percent commitment (to another team)."

Several teams are still interested in Larkin as a reserve,
giving him a chance to help develop younger players. But the
40-year-old Larkin sounds as if he's going to retire, and says he's
"pretty close" to a final decision.

"I simply haven't made an announcement that I'm not going to
play or retire because it's not that pressing of an issue," he
said. "If it comes to the point that spring training starts and
I'm not playing, then it will be obvious. I want no big fanfare, no
major announcement."

Larkin batted .289 in 111 games last season and was chosen for
his 12th All-Star team, prompting him to re-evaluate his decision
to retire after 2004. He wanted to stay with the Reds for another
season, but they decided to turn the position over to younger

Larkin has been managing a sports complex in Orlando, working in
a development management group, spending time with his family and
weighing his options for playing one more season.

He could have been a good fit with the NL champion St. Louis
Cardinals, who lost free agent shortstop Edgar Renteria to Boston.
Larkin said one American League team offered him a job as a
starting second baseman, and two NL teams were interested in him as
a starting shortstop.

Larkin told them he couldn't commit because he still sees
himself as a Red.

"I just couldn't," he said. "Maybe it cost me a job, but
that's just the way I'm wired, how strongly I feel. To my soul, to
my core, I just could not make that commitment.

"I can't see myself attempting to play ball with that on my
mind and heart."

The Cardinals signed David Eckstein as a free agent from the
Angels, and the other starting chances have dried up. Larkin has
several open-ended offers for a reserve role.

Larkin also has spoken to friends at ESPN about job
possibilities and has talked to other teams about a front office
job, something that has been his goal after retirement.

"I've been talking to other organizations about possibly doing
something in the front office or doing something with the players
on the field," Larkin said. "But until anybody makes a firm
offer, I can't say what it is."

His dream is to work in the Reds' front office, something that's
not an option for now. Larkin and chief operating officer John
Allen clashed over a take-it-or-leave-it contract offer late in the
2003 season, and Larkin was prepared to leave then. The team
reconsidered and negotiated a one-year deal for 2004.

Larkin, who was the Reds' captain, still hopes to work in their
front office someday. It's unlikely he'll get the chance until
there's a change in management.

"I'm OK," he said. "I'm not beat up about it. I don't have
any bad feelings. I feel great about the organization."

So great that he can't bring himself to play for another one.