NEW YORK (AP) — Barry Larkin is gladly giving Major League Baseball a helping hand in these playoffs.
Two of them, actually.
Look closely at the bats being swung and you might notice something on the knobs: a label with a graphic design of Black and white hands clasped over the words “Heal” and “Unite.”
They’re the product of Larkin’s Project Unity, an initiative headed by the Hall of Famer to draw people together on the diamond and beyond.
“Everything is being so polarized,” the Cincinnati Reds great told The Associated Press on Monday. “Police brutality, protests in the streets and rioting, the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and others.
“I don’t want to be political,” he said. “But I just couldn’t sit around and not try to do something.”
The former winner of the Roberto Clemente Award for his humanitarian efforts developed the program this year. Later, the Black shortstop voted the NL MVP in 1995 came up with the bat labels.
Endorsed by MLB, the stickers were sent in team colors to every clubhouse in advance of the playoffs.
“My hope is that they’re embraced by many players,” he said from his home in Orlando, Florida.
Cleveland star Francisco Lindor and Dodgers infielder Edwin Rios work out with Larkin, so they figure to be on board. So might the players on one specific team — “the Reds, I think they will,” he said.
In a year when games in all sports have been postponed to focus attention on racial injustice, and in a season when baseball has put messages about social issues on uniforms, scoreboards and stadiums, MLB put its stamp on the project.
“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,” 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,” he said.
The players’ union, the Hall of Fame, Phoenix Bats, Wilson Sporting Goods, Louisville Slugger and the music industry joined in backing Project Unity.
Larkin also is raising money for several groups, including the MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation. MLB will support the initiative with its diversity programs, such as the Hank Aaron Invitational.
“It’s a conduit to kindness. It’s a conduit to peace,” the 56-year-old Larkin said. “The end goal is to heal and unite.”
Starting with a symbol that hitters will bring into the batter’s box.
“It’s huge for MLB to allow players to do this in the postseason, I’m very appreciative,” said Larkin, who helped lead the Reds to the 1990 World Series championship.
Larkin realizes that not every player might attach a label. He completely understands that.
“Some guys are very particular about their bats,” he said.