"Looks can be deceiving," said Larkin while at his locker in the coaches room at the Reds' spring complex in Goodyear, Ariz.
There was no deception, however, in the pride Larkin took in wearing the Reds uniform and his familiar No. 11 again. No one has worn that number since he left.
"It feels good. It feels natural," said Larkin, who was the last player on the team to serve as its captain. "I was telling Joey Votto the other day about my opportunity to play with the Nationals. When I saw the Nationals uniform with 11 and 'Larkin' on the back, I told them I couldn't put the uniform on. I couldn't do it. I sat in my locker and just looked at it like, 'Something is not right about this.'"
Larkin did join the Nationals' front office as a special assistant to former general manager Jim Bowden and only recently became friendly with the Reds again. A rift with members of the former Reds management led to a separation. Larkin had changed his mind about retiring near the end of the 2004 season but was told by the team he wouldn't be brought back.
The current Reds regime has worked to get Larkin back to having ties with his hometown team. He was inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame in 2008 and made his first appearance at Redsfest last winter.
Ownership, general manager Walt Jocketty and manager Dusty Baker all asked Larkin to come to camp this year.
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"They reached out, and I was really appreciative of that," said Larkin, who started working on Friday and will stay through next weekend.
From 1986-2004, all with the Reds, Larkin had an average of .295 with 198 home runs, 960 RBIs, 2,340 hits, a .371 on-base percentage and 379 stolen bases. He was a 12-time All-Star, a three-time Gold Glove winner, a member of the 1990 World Series championship team and the 1995 National League Most Valuable Player.
On the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for the first time, Larkin received 51.6 percent of the vote. He needs 75 percent for election, and it looks optimistic he'll one day be enshrined.
"It's nice to see him and Sean Casey here," Baker said. "It's all part of the rebuilding process. When I see USC football games, I see Marcus Allen. I see Ronnie Lott or all the great running backs on the sidelines. At UCLA basketball games, you see all the dudes that were around when John Wooden was there."
Casey's stay is shorter -- he'll be in camp just for this weekend. His wife, Mandi, is due to have a baby in about three weeks. During his eight seasons in Cincinnati from 1998-2005, Casey batted .305 with 118 homers and 604 RBIs. He retired after the 2008 season with the Red Sox.
Known as "The Mayor" for being friendly to anyone and everyone he met, Casey offered gregarious hugs and handshakes on Saturday morning to players and staff. He bear-hugged Hall of Fame reporter Hal McCoy and delivered hard thumps to his back.
In the hallway back in Goodyear, team medical director Dr. Tim Kremchek was giving Casey a hard time for calling him while Kremchek was at the Suns-Lakers basketball game.
"My elbow is killing me," said Casey, who wore his old No. 21 jersey. "I think I need a cortisone shot."
"You're retired for God's sake," Kremchek said.
"It's all the pullups I've been doing," Casey joked with a big smile.
Both Larkin and Casey currently work as analysts for MLB Network, and neither appears to have a full-time coaching career in their future. Larkin is also looking forward to watching his 17-year-old son, Shane, play college basketball next year.
"He is being recruited by Harvard, Cal-Berkley and Stanford," Larkin said proudly.
Larkin expected to spend most of his time working with the Reds' younger players and prospects. He often works in MLB-sponsored international instructional camps in places like Taiwan and Italy.
"Big league players know what they're doing," Larkin said of this camp. "If they need me to help them, I will do whatever I can."