Stories Of Success: Amani Larry

(During Black History Month, the state of Mississippi celebrates its current black student-athletes, coaches, and administrators by sharing some of their personal stories. Today, HailState.com is spotlighting the Bulldog baseball infielder. Amani Larry.)

STARKVILLE – Amani Larry can remember everything.

Larry, now a Mississippi baseball player, was about seven years old. He had just formed a youth all-star team. There was only one problem.

“I was the weakest link in the group,” Larry recalled.

Larry’s father — a former New York Yankees draft pick — had a solution. That answer stays true to Larry to this day and is one of the main reasons he is now at MSU and has the chance to play under the bright lights of Dudy Noble Field.

And what did Larry learn? Hard work definitely pays off.

“I remember going out with my dad,” Larry explained. “I would have to hit the back net about 200 balls [of the batting cage]. We didn’t leave the cages until I got it done… It changed me from that night on.

Larry was no longer a weak link.

“I saw the jump I made,” Larry said. “I’ve seen that if you put in the work, you’ll get results. It may not be instant, but you will see. I realized it when I was young and I thought, ‘Yeah, I like that.’ “

In a way, the scenario mimicked Larry’s life. He had to put his head down and grind to get where he always wanted to be.

Larry had known for a long time that he wanted a chance to play baseball in college. A native of Bossier City, Louisiana, he was only a freshman at Parkway High School when the early programs turned out to be interested in him, too. But once again Larry ran into a problem.

“I got calls from a lot of big schools,” Larry said. “It went on over the years, but I started to question everything a little bit. I had spoken to them but wondered why I hadn’t gotten any offers yet. So doubts crept in a bit and I was told that I probably would have to go to junior college. One of the coaches who spoke to me said, “Don’t take this the wrong way. We only want guys who can come in and play right away.” Now I look back and I’m grateful that he told me that. Because I wasn’t ready to go to a big campus and play right away.”

Larry might not be ready yet, but eventually he would be. The journey continued in Mississippi at East Central Community College.

“[East Central head coach Neal Holliman] made me my only offer and I accepted it and ran with it,” Larry said.

It was an opportunity Larry didn’t want to pass up. Those nights in the batting cage long ago had instilled an attitude of perseverance.

Larry had two strong seasons at East Central. He hit .373 as a true freshman, hitting 17 runs, driving 12 and hitting a homer in a year cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2021, Larry showed that the previous season’s small sample size was no accident. He batted in 47 games with a .400 clip and hit 25 extra base hits, including 20 doubles, two triples and three home runs. Larry led the team in doubles, RBIs (43), and stolen bases (26).

But Larry insists his time at East Central has developed him far more than numbers might suggest.

“At EC, I learned how to be a better baseball player and we immersed ourselves in the game,” Larry said. “But I’ve learned to be a better man off the field too. Coach Holliman has taught me many life skills that I need. Maybe it was like changing your tire. Or we put grass in the outfield. We did things to get your hands dirty, blue-collar style.”

Eventually, the player and person Larry had become got him a chance to play in his home state at the University of New Orleans.

“UNO wanted me,” Larry said. “At the end of the day, it’s about who wants you and who wants to invest in you. I felt like UNO invested more in me at the time than some other options, so I decided to go there.”

Larry kept waving a hot stick in New Orleans. He was selected to the All-Southland Conference First Team and was the Southland Newcomer of the Year after scoring third in the league in batting average (.370), first in on-base percentage (.477) and first in runs scored (67). and third in RBIs.

A fantastic season like this is sure to be eye-opening, and in Starkville, MSU head coach Chris Lemonis and company looked in Larry’s direction. Larry was ready and staring straight back at the Diamond Dawgs.

“I just wanted to take the step here to challenge myself even more,” said Larry.

Larry has arrived and now has a chance to make his mark with one of the top programs in all of college baseball. It wasn’t happening as fast as Larry wanted it to be all those years ago, but his constant effort got him where he wanted to be.

He is currently living in the moment and preparing for a season that is fast approaching. However, Larry says he had some time to realize that he was acting out whatever he wanted to do.

“I try to take it like, ‘You worked hard for this a lot of the time,'” Larry said. “You have to take a step back and realize how blessed you are that people are giving you a chance. And when I step out of there [for my first game at Dudy Noble Field]it will probably all hit me a bit and I will absorb everything and remember it for a long time.

Then Larry gets to work as usual. On top of that, he wants to make sure he sets a good example for any little eyes that might be watching.

“What I want to do is when I’m playing the game, I want to make sure I’m playing the game right because you never know that little kid watching in the stands,” Larry said. “You want to make a big impression on them and show them how to play properly.”

When you work and play like Larry, dreams come true. He’s living proof. He wants others to know that they can achieve their own ambitions too.

“I would say so [younger] People, keep God first and keep working,” Larry said. “God’s work and hard work can get you far.”

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