The homecoming of Ken Griffey, Jr.

As someone who covers sports, I haven’t considered myself a fan in many, many years.

That said, I can’t help but be a wee-bit giddy over Ken Griffey, Jr.’s return to Seattle.

To start with, as a kid my favorite ballplayer—hands down—was Ken Griffey, Sr., who joined the Yankees right around the time I was really, really into the game. There was just something extra-cool about the guy—the way his hat sat at the tip of his afro; the speed with which he tracked down balls in the outfield. Griffey was no longer the All-Star-caliber ballplayer he’d been with the Reds, but I loved him nonetheless.

Second, my favorite team for much of my youth was Seattle. Yeah, I grew up in New York and pulled for the Mets. But, when the Mariners were perennial losers, I adopted them as my own. Then they drafted Junior, as well as my up-the-block neighbor, Dave Fleming.

Over the years, I got to know Junior a little. Early on, he could be sort of a jerk—cocky and aloof; went out of his way to make your job difficult. But with maturity, something seemed to snap. One of my best memories is from four or five years ago, when I went to the Reds’ spring training facility to do a piece on Joe Valentine, a Cinci pitcher who had been raised by lesbian parents. Most major leaguers I approached on the subject of gay marriage recoiled. I even had a Washington Nationals PR boob tell me not to ask such questions. But Griffey was fantastic: “If I had a gay teammates, I wouldn’t care even remotely,” he said. “In fact, I’d embrace it. One of my closest friends in the world is gay—he comes and goes from my house without even knocking. It’s just not a big deal to me.”

I know it’s dangerous to walk this path, and I’ll hate when I’m later proved wrong, but I truly believe Griffey to be a clean, non-steroid/HGH-using ballplayer. I’m not alone in this take, either. There’s just something about the guy—he loves baseball, and embraces the game, but you never get the sense he needs it or views it as his only priority. I will say this: I’ve probably covered, oh, 2,000 major leaguers, and he’s one of a handful who I am convinced has never cheated on his wife.

So welcome home, Junior. Hope it goes well for you.

5 thoughts on “The homecoming of Ken Griffey, Jr.”

  1. I can agree with the Griffey likability on so many levels. Being a Texas Rangers fan (yeah, I know time for the ‘roid jokes), I still was fascinated with Griffey. Even drew a picture of him making a wall-leaping catch and submitted it to SI for Kids. There is just something about him that makes me think he never juiced or did much wrong.
    Great post Jeff.

  2. Griffey has had a great career–no question about that–but there is a what-could-have-been component about him that makes him fascinating. Perhaps if he didn’t leave Seattle for Cincinnati, he would have the Aaron’s record. My hope is he has a good season and retires either this or next year as a Mariner.

  3. Griff Jr was an awesome player and wish that he would have had a less injury riddled career. He would have been top 3 in anyone’s discussion. Hands down!

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