(Ken Griffey Jr. from 1990, in a Seattle Times staff photo).
It was only a matter of time, of course, but now it’s official: Ken Griffey Jr. will be inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame, it was announced today. The induction ceremony will take place at Safeco Field on Saturday, Aug. 10, prior to a game with the Brewers. Junior will join former teammates Alvin Davis, Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez, Randy Johnson and Dan Wilson in the Hall of Fame, along with late announcer Dave Niehaus, with whom Griffey had a close relationship.
In a conference call with Seattle reporters this afternoon, Griffey said he was thrilled with the honor.
“It means a lot,” he said. “It’s something you dream about. It’s the organization you get drafted by, the celebration of your career. It means a whole lot they’d think that highly of me and what I’ve done to be able to have my name up there with the rest of the guys.”
Joining the likes of his buddy Buhner and the others was especially meaningful, he said.
“We were guys who played hard, had fun, and learned from each other. We were all young enough to not really know better and have egos. We just wanted to play baseball, and everybody took care of everybody. We were all playing golf together, the lousiest golfers, probably, but on any given day, you could find Edgar, Jay, me, Randy out there losing a couple of dozens golf balls a round. We still have that type of friendship.”
Griffey said he hasn’t heard from his fellow Hall of Famers yet (though Buhner texted him on another subject earlier today). “I’m sure I’ll hear about these guys in the next day or so,” he said.
I asked Griffey about his upcoming vote for another Hall of Fame, the one in Cooperstown. He’ll be on the ballot for the first time in 2015, and I’d be shocked if he’s not a first-ballot electee. He said he’s not thinking about that yet.
“Nope. I don’t really worry about that. It’s a couple years away. I have to keep plugging away on what doing now with my role with the Mariners. When the time comes, I’ll cross that bridge. Right now, I have to try to get this team and this organization where I think it should be.”
Griffey said he and his wife, Melissa, are seriously considering moving back to Seattle once their daughter, Taryn, is out of high school. At that point, their youngest son, Tevin, would not yet be in high school Trey, the oldest son, is playing football at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
“We have so many friends and family who live in the great Northwest,” he said. “When I came back (in 2009), the first question I asked Melissa was, ‘Do you want to move back?”
Other comments from Griffey:
On what’s he’s most proud of in his Mariners career: “The relationship I still have with the guys I played with, that’s what will always be in my mind. We still talk and laugh and joke. Even though I’m a couple of thousands of miles away, It’s like we still live next door.”
On what he felt was his most formative time period with the Mariners: “Actually, when my dad got over here, him batting second and me third. Having someone who looks like me — I look like him — he handled pitches and what you needed to do at 38 years old. He set up pitchers better than anyone I’ve ever seen. Just to have someone there who could do it, and when he came home tell you about what he tried to do.”
On remaining part of the franchise and working with minor leaguers: “It means a lot. I try to help out as much as possible. I don’t go in there and have day to day decision making. I go in and try to help everybody. Everybody starts out in A ball, Double-A, Triple-A. Sometimes you run into a little rut. To have a chance to see someone who has been through it, and bounce some things off you. I sit there and do a lot of talking and work on some things, whether it’s outfield footwork, or telling guys to stay patient. The hard part of baseball is getting drafted. You can’t just show up off the street and say, ‘I’m going to play Double-A.’ Sometimes younger kids put pressure on themselves, trying to do everything all at once in every plate appearance or every time they throw the ball. You just want them to learn the game of baseball.”
On the emotions he might feel during the ceremony: I haven’t thought about it, not yet. If it’s anything like when I came back in ’07 and again in ’09, it will be greatly appreciated, and it will be an honor.”
On how closely he follows the Mariners’ moves: “As soon as Mike (Morse) was traded here, he called me to ask if I would be in spring training. I said yes, and he said, ‘Thank you!” I get a list of seven guys on each team they want me to closely watch and give my opinion on.”