COOPERSTOWN _ The only thing that has changed for Barry Larkin is his contact list.
"People said it would change my life," former Cincinnati Reds shortstop Larkin said of his election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, during his Class of 2012 orientation tour Saturday.
"I don't think it has changed my life, but it has changed who is calling me. I'll get home and there will be a message from Richard (Goose) Gossage. Rod Carew called and I asked him, 'Mr. Carew, what do I call you?' He said, 'Call me Rod,' and I thought, 'No way.' Or my son says, 'Dad, Hank Aaron just called you.'
"Joe Morgan was one of the first guys to talk to me, and he said, 'I just want to welcome you to the greatest collection of athletes in the history of sports,' " Larkin continued. "And that's what it is, isn't it?"
Larkin toured the shrine for the first time with his wife, Lisa, as the couple shared the prelude to his July 22 induction with more than a dozen media members and hundreds of weekend visitors.
"This is amazing. This is a great privilege," said Brooklyn resident Carl Hens, 70, who was in town to visit his son and dropped by the Hall. "Barry Larkin was one of my favorite players ever. We were just talking about him on our way here."
Erik Strohl, the Hall's senior curator of exhibitions and collections, gave the Larkins a tour that lasted more than two hours.
Strohl pointed out artifacts, pulled memorabilia from Larkin's Cincinnati Reds and narrated the history of the Negro leagues and the first professional team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings.
The trio lingered in the Babe Ruth section, discussed highlights of Larkin's 19-year career with the Reds, and laughed at the limitations of early baseball equipment.
"Barry, what do you think about playing with a glove like that?" Strohl asked while pointing to Sal Maglie's glove from his 1956 no-hitter, one that must have barely covered the pitcher's hand.
"I think I'd have a problem with it. And look at those shoes," Larkin said of Pee Wee Reese's cleats _ which looked like dress shoes _ from the same era. "I can't imagine running with those."
Strohl later turned to the bat Dave Concepcion used to hit a two-run homer en route to MVP honors in the 1982 All-Star Game.
"I know he was one of your idols, right?"
Larkin, 43, nodded.
They moved on to a display honoring the Red's "Big Red Machine," which won four pennants and two World Series titles in the 1970s.
"Now these were the guys," Larkin said. "It is great to see these guys get back together because they just start talking (trash) to each other. They all start in on Joe Morgan, because he came over from the Houston Astros. They're like, 'We made you, man.'
"J.B. Now there's the guy," Larkin continued while looking at Johnny Bench's bat from the 1975 World Series. "He was always stirring something up."
The Baseball Writers' Association of America voted Larkin into the Hall in his first year of eligibility. His career numbers include a .295 batting average, 12 All-Star Game appearances, three Gold Gloves at shortstop, 12 Silver Sluggers and the 1995 NL MVP Award. Larkin also reflected on the Reds' 1990 World Series title, which Cincinnati won with a sweep of the Oakland A's.
"I just remember the last out," he said. "It was a foul ball down the first-base line and as Benzo (Todd Benzinger) caught it, I remember thinking, 'We're actually going to win this thing.' Not we could win, or you know, we're going to win, but we really won. Because before that, I had my doubts."
The A's were managed by Tony LaRussa, who led the St. Louis Cardinals to the World Series title last season, and featured Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley that season, along with heavy hitters Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco.
"We won a lot of games that season we shouldn't have," Larkin said. "So I don't think we did anything different than what we knew we could do. We were young enough and naive enough to just be confident."
Down in the archives of the Hall, a place most visitors will never see, Larkin and his wife donned snow-white gloves and handled some of the artifacts. Strohl had set up a table of Reds' history for them, including a signed ball from the 1990 World Series.
"We have one of those," Lisa Larkin said.
Another part of the display was Tom Browning's cap from his 1990 perfect game _ in which Larkin scored the only run _ and the batting helmet Ken Griffey wore during his 400th home run.
"You see this right here?" he said, pointing to a large scuff mark on the front of the helmet. "You know what that mark is from? That's from the at-bat before he hit the home run, when he popped up and he slammed it down in disgust."
As Larkin laughed, Strohl said: "I'll have to add that to the ledger."
"Well, I'm not sure if that's really what it was," Larkin said. "But if it were mine, that's what it would be."
The tour ended in the Plaque Gallery, with Strohl pointing out exactly where Larkin's plaque will be in relation to the other legends of baseball.
"I guess there are no bad spots in here," Lisa Larkin said.
Strohl answered: "That's right."