During his Hall of Fame career with the Cincinnati Reds, Barry Larkin was learning more about baseball than just how to play the game. He has been honing those skills managing Team Brazil as it tries to qualify for its second straight appearance in the World Baseball Classic.
Brazil’s team practiced Friday and Saturday at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue, where the artificial turf in the infield is similar to Brooklyn’s MCU Park, where Brazil, Britain, Pakistan and Israel will play Sept. 22-25. The winning team will earn the final berth in the 16-nation WBC, which takes place next March.
(Israel has former Mets and Yankees first baseman Ike Davis and pitcher Alex Katz, a St. John’s graduate who attended Herricks High School and is in the White Sox chain.)
Larkin was running a camp for elite players in Brazil in 2009 when he was asked to coach the team in 2013. “They asked me if I was interested. I told them, ‘Sure,’ ’’ Larkin said Friday.
It is not unusual for foreign teams to have American-born managers. Terry Collins has managed China’s team.
Larkin, 52, whose Brazil team went 0-3 in the country’s first WBC, felt well-prepared to manage. “It’s managing personalities, it’s managing people, it’s managing expectations,’’ he said. “It’s setting the tone. I don’t think it’s difficult at all. I think it’s very natural. It’s just a matter of arming your players with enough information and preparing them and putting them in a situation where they could be successful.
“My job as a manager or coach now is fairly easy compared to what it used to be as a player. As a player, I had to go out there to defend hitting a 95-mile-per-hour fastball or a 78-mile-per-hour breaking ball. As manager or a coach, it’s just a matter of trying to put them in a position of being successful and then kind of letting them go and doing their thing.’’
Larkin already was an All-Star shortstop in 1992 when the Reds contemplated drafting Derek Jeter out of high school. “I said if they drafted Derek Jeter and I need to go play second base, I could go play second base as well,’’ Larkin said. “So I think it’s just a matter of respect. He’s a fantastic player, a great guy who played the game the right way. I would have been honored to be his teammate. There’s not many people I would have moved away from shortstop for, but he would be one.’’
There is no Jeter-like player on Brazil’s team, but there is one intriguing one: 15-year-old pitcher Eric Pardinho, who might pitch in Brooklyn. If the team can advance, Larkin hopes to add major-leaguers Paul Orlando (Royals) and Luiz Gohara (Mariners) to the WBC roster. Yan Gomes of the Indians is also a possibilty, although he suffered a fractured wrist on Wednesday.
Larkin — whose son Shane, 23, has played point guard for the Knicks and Nets — has tried not to build up expectations about his own future as a coach or manager in the major leagues. It’s likely that there would be a landing spot for someone whose resume includes a plaque in Cooperstown.
“I work with the Reds and their player development department, [but] I’m very interested in working [on the field] with them,’’ Larkin said. “As for an official capacity, I’m not at that point yet.’’
As for his interest in being a major league manager, “I can’t say I am at that particular point,’’ he said, “but if the opportunity comes about, I’ll certainly give a look at it.”
WBC IN BROOKLYN
All games at MCU Park
Pakistan vs. Brazil, noon
Britain vs Israel, 7 p.m.
Israel vs. TBD, noon
Britain vs. TBD, 7 p.m.
TBD, 8 p.m.
Championship, 6 p.m.