Larkin's Project Unity 'a conduit to change'

Initiative's logo to appear on bat knobs during postseason

September 30th, 2020

CINCINNATI -- As racial injustice and social unrest divided the country in 2020, Hall of Fame shortstop was uncomfortable watching and doing nothing. Larkin’s desire to help bring change will start to be seen during Major League Baseball’s postseason.

Larkin started a group called Project Unity that he hopes can help bring people together. The initiative’s graphic logo says it all -- a black hand and a white hand clasped together over the stitches of a baseball. MLB approved bat knob labels with the logo, specific to each team's colors, for hitters to use during the postseason.

“COVID led to a lot of stuff. I had a lot of time,” Larkin told on Tuesday from his home in Orlando, Fla. “I was kind of sitting at home, and the players I work with locally and I were talking about things.

“Everybody was voicing their frustration over what was happening in the streets, the protests, COVID, the polarity of the political side of everything and how divisive the world was. We always talk about us being together and working together and striving to make things better and everybody helping each other.”

The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks at the hands of police, the police shooting of Jacob Blake and the race-motivated murder of Ahmaud Arbery, left Larkin angry and motivated to create Project Unity.

“We talk about it a lot, but I wanted to do something. I’ve got some time and I knew everybody was getting ready for the season. I wanted to spend my energy on doing some stuff,” said Larkin, who is currently a member of the Reds' front office as a special assistant for player performance.

Larkin approached MLB with his design and collaborated on the message he wanted to send.

“It certainly is something to point out that there are some issues. But there’s something to be said about being part of the solution as opposed to part of the problem,” Larkin said. “I aspire to be part of the solution.”

MLB is one of several partners that Larkin has successfully recruited to join his cause. He’s also working with Phoenix Bats and Wilson Sporting Goods and groups in the music industry. More products are in the works, including shirts and special editions of baseball equipment.

“As our country navigates a global pandemic and addresses social injustices, we have seen our players and clubs step up in extraordinary ways. On behalf of Major League Baseball, we are proud to support Barry Larkin and his Project Unity to advocate for healing and uniting our communities through baseball,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. “Historically, our game has played a unique role in uniting our country during challenging times. We hope our support of Project Unity and the other steps we have taken can play a small role in helping to make a difference.”

Larkin, 56, is a Cincinnati native who played all 19 of his MLB seasons with his hometown Reds, from 1986-2004. The '95 National League MVP Award winner, Larkin had a .295 lifetime average, with 198 home runs, 960 RBIs, 2,340 hits, a .371 on-base percentage and 379 stolen bases.

A 12-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove Award winner and nine-time Silver Slugger Award winner, Larkin was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012.

In 1993, Larkin was the recipient of MLB’s Roberto Clemente Award for his community work as a player.

“Philanthropy has always been a part of my DNA, and giving back,” Larkin said. “I just look at this as another conduit to kindness, a conduit to change. I’m frustrated because there is very little that I can do with COVID shutting down things. I’m very limited in the ability to touch people or be in their presence and mentor people. I’ve spent a lot of my time doing that.”