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Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

March 16, 2011 at 5:01 PM

Transcript of Ken Griffey Jr.’s press conference

Here is the full transcript of Ken Griffey Jr.’s press conference today in Peoria — although it might be stretching the term to call it a “conference.” Griffey sat on a table in the press room while reporters gathered around him and asked questions.

What struck me most was how somber Griffey was, particularly at first. He relaxed as he went on, but there was not nearly as much of the bantering and wise-cracking you usually get from Griffey.

Here’s what he said:

“I’m only going to do this one time, and this will be the last time I talk about it.

“Last year, I felt it was necessary for me to remove myself from the team due to, I told Chuck and Howard, No. 1, if I become a distraction or feel I’m going to be a distraction, then I will retire. Because that’s the one thing I didn’t want to become is a distraction to the organization.

“Second, I gave myself a little bit of a head start. A lot of people that are friends of mine would have tried to talk me out of it. I just felt it was best for me and the organization to retire. No fault of its own. Things happen. I’m not upset. I think people thought I was upset. That wasn’t the case. I just felt it was more important for me to retire, and instead of being a distraction…it no longer became the Seattle Mariners. It became when is Ken doing this. When it Ken doing that. That’s something that I didn’t want to have my teammates who I truly care about have to answer these kinds of questions day in and day out.

“With that being said, I’m happy to be back. I’m glad that the Mariners gave me an opportunity to be part of the future and what goes on from here on out. I’m looking forward to the challenges. I think it’s going to be fun.

What are your duties? “I think me coming to spring training, it’s just a matter of what they need me to do. Jay’s here, that’s going to help me out, he’s done this a couple of times. I’ll follow Jay’s coattails, then I’ll drag him on the road a couple of times.”

Are you going to work with the minor leaguers? “That was part of the plan, to be able to travel and go see the guys. Being in the organization at age 17, you don’t really know the ins and outs. Now I get an opportunity to go spend some time with the kids and give them my opinion on things and the way I see things.”

When you retired, did you feel you still had anything left in the tank? “That’s not important. The important thing is, it was time. That’s all that needs to be said.”

Do you think you could have been talked out of your decision? “Those are what if question. I wanted to not be a distraction, it became a distraction. I did what was best for myself and the team.”

Reflect on your career: “Just go out and play as hard as I could every day. That’s the only thing that is important to me.”

Have you spoken to Don Wakamatsu since you retired? “No.”

Why you’re not if not upset: “My phone rings. That’s just the way it is.”

Was it hard when you were driving home? “Yeah. I’ve been a professional since I was 17. You look at it, I had four days after I graduated from high school. People think it’s easy, blah blah blah, it’s not an emotional day. Yeah, it’s emotional. It was best for me. I’ve always said I’m not going to have a big old press conference, but I guess people didn’t believe me. That’s not my fault. I always try to tell people the truth. I said I wasn’t going to have a press conference and I didn’t. No fault of its own. I just didn’t think having a press conference is one of the things I really like to do.”

Was it a relief when you got home? “It was just one of those things. You just don’t stop becoming a dad. It was straight dad mode, picking the kids up and things like that. I had the two days to drive to think about what was going on. But once I got home it was, what do I have to do to make my kids life’s easier.”

Did it bother you that some fans didn’t like the way you left? “I mean, you want me to apologize for something I felt was right? I felt it was right for me to leave. I’m not going to do it. It was not intended to hurt people. It was a decision I made that 15 years ago. It wasn’t like it was something you guys hadn’t heard before. I mean, you guys have heard it from day one. There are some people that are upset, and there are some people that are not. I can’t worry about it. I had to do what I thought was best for me.”

Was it weird being home in the summer? “Yeah, it was weird. I had to do what was best, drive a car to Atlanta, be around the kids and do their things. Just because a part of my life is over, I still have other parts that don’t stop, and that’s raising kids.”

How long did it take to digest? “I don’t know. You sort of get used to it now. I’ve been home for, what, nine months.”

At what point did you reach your decision?“When I felt I was a distraction to the ball club.”

Was that the day you left? “I don’t know. I do know, but I’m not answering.”

Are you sorry you came back in 2010, in retrospect? “No. No. I mean, things happen. No fault of its own. Things happen. I got to meet some great people last year. Am I sorry? No. If I wouldn’t have done it, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet some of the people in Seattle I did meet, who still call me to this day. So, no, I’m not sorry I came back.”

Is it odd to be here without Dave Niehaus? “Yeah, it’s odd. If someone tell you it isn’t, it is. You’re definitely looking around, not seeing those white shoes, those tight pants he wears, that semi-tight shirt, and that voice. I think that’s the biggest thing, that voice saying hello, teasing you, having a good time at the ballpark. That’s the thing that the guys who have been here over the years is going to miss. Even the guys that have only been here a year or so are going to miss it too. I’ve known him since I was 17. Like I said in Seattle, he was like a grandfather to a lot of guys. He was one to me. I’m going to miss that. You’re not going to be able to replace that. You can replace a player, but that voice, you can’t do it. It’s going to take 50 people. Even those 50, it’s not going to be the same.”

Was there ever any question you would come back to the organization? “No. This is the organization I grew up in. If there was going to be an opportunity for me to be in baseball, it was going to be here. I got an opportunity to get a chance to do it. It’s a lot of learning, because it is a little different. I’m still going to be the same person. I’m not going to change. You’re going to now exactly how I feel. It’s a chance to help kids get better. That’s the one thing. You guys that have known me throughout my whole career. It’s not that I’m jealous of anybody. If you work hard, you’re going to get things. If you don’t work hard, you’re not. That’s the things I’m going to express to young kids, that hard work doesn’t start in the game. Hard work starts the night before.”

WIll you be doing broadcasting (asked by Rick Rizzs): “I’ll go up there with you a couple of times, but it’s going to cost you.”

Will they call you coach: “My pop warner football team did. I was coach Griffey, coach junior, coach ken. Some of them said, you just play baseball, what do you know about football? Try to answer that from an 8 year old, it’s kind of tough. But we did well. No, Junior. I’m not going to change.”

What will be your first lesson: “Just go out and play. The biggest thing is going out and playing baseball. That’s it. Play baseball. Like I tell everybody, the game doesn’t change from 7 to 8. Just the stands change. The people in the stands. The game is still played the same. You catch, hit throw. And it’s how you execute that counts.”

Will you wear a uniform the rest of spring? “No, I get a chance to hang out in street clothes. I don’t think Rizzy would like me doing the broadcast in full uni.”

When was the last time you swung a bat? “Two weeks ago in the Philippines. I went over there and did some US ambassadorship camps. I actually was at the same field Babe Ruth and a couple of other guys hit some home runs. I hit a few out. It was good. It was fun. We ran seven camps in four days. In between 75 to 125 kids, ranging from age 7 to 20. Had some kids who can really play baseball over there. A couple of girls softball teams were really unbelievable. They’ve got some kids who can play. It was very refreshing to go out there and not worry about what’s right and what’s wrong, just go out and teach. We had a blast. I didn’t get a chance to go where Ali fought. They asked me to come back again, and I said that’s the one spot I’d like to go.”

It was fun. I really want to thank everybody… Even the Mariners helped out by telling me, you have prior obligations, go there and do that before you come here. Just come here when you can, and I was able to do it. And I’m here.

Wedge wants you to remind players of Mariners history: For the most part, it’s baseball history, period, no matter what organization. Sometimes you forget who was here before you to help you out. I was fortunate growing up having guys like Joe Black and Brooks Lawrence and those guys at my house. Telling me about baseball. Willie Mays being at the house. People forget about that. It is different a little bit, it’s just a mentality, but baseball hasn’t changed. It’s going out and playing. To have guys who have been through some of the things these guys are going to go through gives them a little heads up and a little warning, if you do right and do things well, you’re going to be rewarded. If you’re not, you’re not going to make it. Everyone is here with one goal and that’s to make it to the big leagues and ultimately play for a world championship. That doesn’t start right when you get here. The preparation is the night before, or the offseason before you get here.”

WIll you come out of retirement like Michael Jordan? “I was thinking about that in basketball. I was think about going to basketball. Much safer.”

Is your commitment to the Mariners open-ended? “I still got the Woody Woodward contract for Trey, so it’s around that. I think you have to look at it, I’ve been with this organization since I was 17. Whatever I can do, on and off the field, I’m going to do it.”



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