Drayer: Timing of new Griffey documentary couldn’t be more perfect
As is with baseball and life in general, when it comes to releasing a documentary timing is everything. While the 90-minute documentary “Junior” which airs on the MLB Network Sunday at 5 p.m. was completed and ready for air over a year and a half ago, the subject of the film, Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., felt it was important to step aside for another Hall of Famer.
“I didn’t want to step on Edgar’s toes in the Hall of Fame year,” said Griffey. “That was very important to let Edgar, a teammate of mine, have his time, have his year. I have that respect for him as a teammate and as a person. That was very important.”
The delay was perhaps fortuitous for baseball fans starving for game action and exhausted from the destructive back and forth of the league and players union in their attempt to return to play. Griffey himself is one who would like to see the two sides find a way to get back on the field.
“As long as people are safe and healthy and they make a fair decision for both parties, I think that is what people want to see,” he said. “People want to see baseball. People want to see sports in general. It’s kind of crazy because I’ve gone through a strike and it seems different because I’m on the outside as a fan now more, so that I’m like ‘come on when is baseball going to start?’ Everybody is asking me and I haven’t been part of the union in 10 years, but I want these guys to be out there but I want people to be safe and healthy because that’s the only thing you can care about.”
This will be the first Father’s Day Griffey celebrates without baseball, but thanks to the release of “Junior,” Father’s Day will not be celebrated without Griffey.
“It means a lot,” said Griffey, acknowledging the significance. “I hit .500 on Father’s Day. So many things that happen on Father’s Day. Dads taking kids to the ballpark, I remember going to the ballpark with my dad on Father’s Day. Having kids of my own and getting to hang out with them and let them see a side of sports they never see. Just being a dad in general, there’s nothing more important than being a father.”
Griffey’s three children, Trey, Taryn and Tevin appear in the documentary, which is narrated by Emmy Award-winning actor Sterling L. Brown, along with other family members, former teammates and sports luminaries. Lou Piniella, Reggie Jackson, LeBron James, Bo Jackson and Gary Payton are among those who weigh in on Griffey’s impact. Many of the stories are personal and it goes beyond game respecting game. For James, Griffey made a huge impact leading the way as a young superstar and taking him under his wing early on.
“When LeBron became a pro, his first Christmas was at our house,” said Griffey. “He was in Orlando and Melissa and I cooked Christmas dinner for him along with a couple of teammates. It was pretty sweet to have a guy 18 years old. I remember those days to be a phenom. He came to the house, we had Christmas dinner and we watched a game and I have been a big fan of his ever since. He’s done some things with his school, being an activist, it’s just phenomenal. Let alone being a great basketball player, he’s just a great person.”
The documentary covers Griffey’s earliest days as well. From growing up in Donora, PA to playing ball at Moeller High School in Cincinnati to being drafted by the Mariners and having to ask his dad where Seattle was. The relationship with Sr. is featured prominently.
“Their joy of just being with each other, as dad and son, was something that you’ve never seen, and it was so special that you just had to appreciate it,” Reggie Jackson says in the film. “You just had to enjoy it and recognize the specialness of it between two people.”
“Junior” will cap off a full day of Griffey programming on the MLB Network Sunday with milestone and playoff games scheduled to air as well as All Star and Home Run Derby performances.