By Shannon Drayer
He lives across the country in Florida but there is little question that the city of Seattle and the Mariners remain close to Ken Griffey Jr. wherever he is. That is why receiving the news that he was to be inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame had great meaning for him.
Ken Griffey Jr.
“It means a lot,” he said via conference call Tuesday afternoon. “It is something you dream about, the organization that you get drafted by, the celebration of your career. It means a whole lot that they would think that highly of me and what I have done to be able to put my name up there with the rest of the guys.”
Who wouldn’t want to keep company with Alvin Davis, Dave Niehaus, Jay Buhner, Dan Wilson, Randy Johnson and Edgar Martinez. Many players have said that it is the camaraderie in the clubhouse that in the end was the most important and enjoyable part of their careers. For this group, it extended beyond the clubhouse.
“The relationship I still have with the guys that I played with,” is what Griffey answered when asked what he was most proud of in his career. “We still talk and laugh and joke even though we are a couple of thousand miles away – it is still like we live next door when we get together.”
The bond was first established on the field.
“The guys played hard, had fun, learned from each other,” he said. “We were all young enough to not really know better and have egos. Everyone took care of everybody. You take the strike, for example. We were all playing golf together because we all had to stay close to home. We are all lousy golfers but on any given day you would find Edgar, Jay, me, Randy out there losing a couple of dozen golf balls a round and we still have that relationship.”
Three of the four still live in the area and Griffey said that returning is something he has been thinking about. When his middle child graduates from high school there is a good chance he could head west.
For now he keeps himself busy in Florida with his family and by continuing in his role as a special consultant to the franchise. He has found he has a passion for helping younger minor leaguers in particular.
“Sometimes the younger kids put a lot of pressure on themselves,” he said. “Instead of trying to learn from baseball and figure out their strengths and weaknesses they are trying to do everything at once in every plate appearance, every time they throw the ball. They just need help from different guys just to learn the game of baseball.”
Who better to learn from than a future Hall of Famer? Griffey will be eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016. He insists it is not something that is on his mind yet.
“I don’t really worry about that. It is a couple of years away,” he said. “I just have to keep plugging away at what I am doing right now in my role with the Mariners. When that time comes then I will cross that bridge, but right now I have to try to get this team and organization where I think it should be.”