Jeter and Larkin could have been teammates. The Reds had fifth overall pick in the 1992 draft, and after four teams—Houston, Cleveland, Montreal and Baltimore—passed on Jeter, some in the Riverfront Stadium draft room thought they would take Jeter, a star at Kalamazoo Central High School. in Michigan.
A top scout, Gene Bennett, had been instrumental in drafting Midwestern amateurs like Larkin, Paul O’Neill and Chris Sabo, a group that helped the Reds win the 1990 World Series. Bennett really wanted Jeter, but the Scouting Director, Julian Mock, took a college outfielder named Chad Mottola instead.
“Julian Mock’s position in the room, and I’ll never forget this, he said, ‘Mottola has a chance to be a 40 home run man, he’s got a great arm and we already have Larkin,'” said Jim Bowden, who was then director of player development for the Reds.
Larry Barton Jr. – another one of the older Reds guys who was always there – stood up and said, ‘What do you think we did with Eric Davis? Eric Davis was a short stop too and we put him in midfield .’ And Gene Bennett said, ‘Right, we can move Jeter to the center or you can have Jeter play the shortstop and Larkin the center. But there’s enough center of the diamond for everyone. Don’t let that be the reason.’”
It was a monumental mistake for the Reds, who are still waiting for their next pennant. They would get only 17 hits from Mottola, who batted .200 in a short career and is now the batting coach of the Tampa Bay Rays. Jeter, meanwhile, collected 3,465 hits for the Yankees, batted .310 and made 2,660 starts at shortstop, the most in baseball history.