(This post was selected for a tribute to Griffey blog.)
I have been, and always will be, a Seattle Mariners baseball fan. From the confines of the ugly Kingdome to the majesty of Safeco Field, I’ve been there for their horrific losses in the 80s, their coming of age in the early and mid 90s, again with the suckiness of the late 90s and yet again with the winning in the early 2000s. Mariners baseball will always be synonymous with my childhood.
But Seattle wouldn’t have a baseball team if not for one man. One player, who was destined for greatness before he ever set foot on the field. The son of a major leaguer who actually got to play with his dad, Ken Griffey Jr. is a Seattle icon above all. Sure, we had A-Rod and yes, we had Randy Johnson, too. But even the international appeal of Ichiro cannot surpass the amount of love Seattle fans like me have for Griffey Jr.
We watched him grow up (I was ten when he first broke into the big leagues in 1989), watched him succeed beyond even his expectations (he always fashioned himself a line-drive hitter, but we knew better) and we watched him cover center field like few before him. He was expected to make highlight reels weekly, and seldom didn’t deliver.
He is the reason Safeco field exists, for without his star power and the Mariners glorious 1995 season, the Mariners would have been long gone. He played the game the way we all wished we could, with our hat backward, a smile on our face and a swing so sweet I can’t remember one more imitated.
Like every family, we had our issues. Griffey leaving for Cincinnati, his home, hurt many fans, but we always forgave him. Unlike Johnson or Rodriguez, Griffey was always welcome back. Him joining the team last year as a farewell tour gave life to a season that to most was already lost.
So thank you, Ken Griffey Jr. Thank you for letting me copy your swing in my backyard with my brother. Thank you for making baseball the best game I’ve ever watched. Thank you for sharing your Hall of Fame talent with us for as long as you could. Thank you for not tainting your legacy.
Thank you for being The Kid.