Let me take you back a ways. Imagine 5 or 6 year old Andrew, with his mushroom haircut, sitting in church. I’m getting a little squirmy because the worship music has stopped and, like any 5 year old, I couldn’t sit through an entire church service. As the pastor spoke, my excitement would grow for the weekly after-church baseball game. Another 5 minutes passed and I just couldn’t sit there anymore. At this point, I had no idea what the speaker was talking about but I was thanking God that my mom had brought some paper and a pencil with her to keep me entertained. Once she handed the paper over, the most important decision of my week would take over my young mind, “What should I draw?” Although it was a weekly decision I always came up with the same answer… Ken Griffey Jr.
Like everyone else who was halfway interested in baseball, Griffey had captured my imagination. It was the robbing of home runs, his majestic swing, and a smile that made me think, “Someone actually has as much fun as me playing baseball.” Because of this, and a good share of success on my T-ball team, I decided that I’d become the next Ken Griffey Jr. I was well on my way, we were both left-handed, his baseball glove was black and so was mine (I only choose a black glove because I knew he had one), and we both just happened to have the same favorite number, 24.
Then time moved on. Griffey left, I became a fan of baseball more than a player of baseball and I knew I wasn’t destined to be the next Griffey. But he was still my favortie player. I got excited anytime the Reds were on TV because I missed seeing that swing and I was highly disappointed whenever he got hurt.
Seeing how I hadn’t hit double digits in age when Griffey left, I couldn’t remember the last time I saw him play live. With each passing year, the chance of seeing him grew slimmer. Then, the Reds came to Seattle. I somehow managed to get to go see 2 of the 3 games in that series. The Sunday game of that series was one I’ll never forget. Jr. hit two home runs and as he left the field after the 8th inning to a standing ovation, I know I wasn’t the only one in that stadium with watery eyes.
And then we had last year. Griffey came back. I know how fortunate I was to have my favorite player come back to my favorite team. Even though he didn’t fill the stat sheet, Griffey gave me and many fans some more memories. Not only that but he made the Mariners fun again. That smile was back on his face and it was contagious. The team smiled it’s way to one of the biggest turnarounds in baseball history and everyone in Seattle loved the team (that’s no small accomplishment when you had Carlos Silva and Miguel Batista on the team).
Now it’s 2010, 22 years after Griffey debuted on that kingdome turf, and he’s back for one more go around. I know from a statistical viewpoint that I shouldn’t love this move. Griffey’s swing is slower than it used. If he plays left field we’d have “Death to flying things” in center and “Death by flying things” in left. His knees are landmines, one wrong twist away from exploding. But dang it, I love that he’s back. That 6 or 7 year old in me pictures Jr. hitting 30 home runs while leading the team to the World Series. While this could happen, it’s highly unlikely. I don’t think he’ll play that much (probably DH at home against right-handed pitching) but his smile will be there.
Without Jr. I don’t know if I would’ve ever fallen in love with baseball like I did. Now he’s back for one more year to tickle Ichiro, shove pies in peoples’ faces, and maybe hit a few home runs along the way. That’s more than enough for me. Thanks Griffey.