Ken Griffey Junior Adds a New Role to his Career……. Diplomat
If there is one player I wish we could have found space and money for him in Tampa Bay for 2009, it has to be the guy who will go into the Hall of Fame having played for my second favorite MLB squad. With the Tampa Bay Rays recent signing of former Phillie Pat Burrell, it ends that secret hidden deep in my heart to see Ken Griffey Junior play and succeed in a Rays uniform. If you really consider what this guy has done in such a long and productive carrer, he is a one of those guys who I believe will be a sure thing first ballot Hall of Famer, without a question. I was justing looking forward to watching that swing 81 games a year at the Trop., but I will just have to buy the MLB Package and watch him play maybe in my second city, Seattle again in 2009.
From the days at Moeller High School in Cincinnati, where he was a twice voted the best baseball player of the year, to at 19, being the youngest player in the major leagues. The guy has always been at the top of his profession. And to even imagine that he had the chance to do it side by side with his dad is beyond words. Now that is something that I find truly amazing to me. I know I would have loved to play baseball or even box against my dad, or his uncle as a kid growing up, and would have really learned how it was to play the Philly type of street/ parking lot football and baseball. But Griffey Jr. got to do it along side an All Star dad, while playing for the team that made his dad a star, the Cincinnati Reds is truly amazing to me.
He is one of the first player to ever be on a major league roster at the same time as his father and playing in the MLB. And if that was not a huge event, he also got to finally play along side his dad after his trade from the Mariners to the Cincinnati Reds. Both Father and son did appear in several lineups that season. And his outward enjoyment of the game of baseball is clear to see by anyone watching him before, during and after the games. For the art of baseball with all of it’s simple parts and complicated segments never seemed to get him down or stress him out at all. He has always been that care free and smiling figure on the sidelines signing autographs or posing for photos with the fans. He respects the game and pay homage to those before him for letting him have the honor of playing this great game.
He is the essence of what you want your teams’ professional baseball player to be, and what you might want you own kids to become someday. He might go out with the boys’ to nightclubs and dinner while on road trips, but he also has been clean and clear to others that he is happily married and loves his lifestyle. The Daily pressures and expectations might take a toll on him, but doesn’t show the effects or even the worry because when he hits that field for Batting Practice, he tries to convey a sense of fun and pranks, almost child-like play, and does not take anything serious around the ball field before the first pitch of the game. How can you not like a guy with that kind of idealistic joy. And how can he not be on your list of people in baseball to admire and respect.
And people tend to forget he was the youngest player to ever hit the 350 home run mark. He also still hold one of the best career batting average marks ever in All Star play by hitting over .571 in the mid summer classic. And if that was not enough, the guy also won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves as a center fielder in the American League. He also hit a homer in 8 straight games once during his career, and has hit a home run in every ball park in the American League, and still will be in uniform to maybe hit one in 2009 in the new Yankee Stadium. Depending on what team finally signs him in 2009, he might still also have a chance to hit a home run in the New York Mets new dig, Citi Park this coming season. If he does sign with the Mariners, he will not get a chance in Inter-league play to go beyond the Mississippi River in 2009. But if he did resign with the Chicago White Sox, he as an option of going back to Cincy during the Inter-league series form June 19-21, 2009.
But Griffey Jr. is entering a new phase in his playing career. Ever since 1995, when he broke his wrist while with the Mariners, small injuries and mishaps have taken him down a road he hates to admit might have derailed a lot of his career. Simple injuries have cost this guy a chance at maybe beating Barry Bond’s home run record. He was for years the heir apparent to the crown before his string of injuries cost him at bats and chances at homers over the years. In 2008, an errant foot locker left out in the area near his locker caused him to suffer a knee injury that plagued him the entire season. This off season he has taken measures to correct the injury and should be ready by the Feb. reporting date to again pratice and regain strength in the knee.
He is about to enter a second career of sorts for a few months in 2009, maybe setting himself up a bit with a life after baseball motivation. I could see him maybe in a political role somewhere down the line, but did not think it would go hand in hand with his baseball career. Well seriously folks, for a few years there he could have ran for mayor of Tacoma or Seattle and won by a landslide vote. But recently, United States Secretary of the State Condoleeza Rice named Griffey as a Public Diplomacy Envoy. In accepting the honor, Griffey Jr. is challenged with a new goals and set of parameters. He is entrusted with the act of spreading the values of the United States by helping to spark interest in America and in our culture. Griifey also will share this honor with former figure skater Michelle Kwan and former television star, Fran Drescher, better known for her role and voice as ” The Nanny.”
Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., who was appointed in 2007 to the same post will accompany the newly appointed envoys when they begin their adventures in January with a trip to Panama Since Griffey Jr. has played both on the U S Olympic and World Baseball Classic teams for the United States, he seemed like the logical and most visual player to ever be considered for the post. ” Public diplomacy must be a dialogue” Rice said recently after a meeting with Griffey Jr. “This dialogue must extend to every citizen in every country, especially to the young people.” Because of his still boy-ish looks Griffey Jr. will convey a sense of All American values and be a great example of the type of person an American youth should use as an example for life. Griffey Jr. is excited about the position and is looking forward to his missions for his country.
Well-known athletes and celebrities, who exemplify the best in their sports and professions, and as a individual citizens, are appointed by the Secretary of the State to be American Public Diplomacy Envoys. This special envoy not only reaches out to youth though sports and communications, but promotes the best aspects of American culture and democratic principles. So our latest diplomatic weapon to show people the values and great traits of our country has 611 home runs and has just reached 39 years of age. Griffey Jr is only the 3rd athlete to ever hold this position with the U S government.
He also got an honor a lot of people never knew about unless you lived on the west coast of America. In 1989, Ken Griffey Junior got to taste a chocolate candy bar named after him, and it sold over 1 million bars before they ceased production of the bar. Just another great fact about this very like-able baseball player. He has had countless video games produced and released with his likeness and name upon the packaging. Who can forget the Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64 games with his name on them that we all played for hours in our family room around the country.
So what does the future hold for the great Griffey Jr in 2009? You would think that during the World Baseball classic he would be doing the tours along the sites to promote and entertain the ideals of this great country, while maybe serving in some role for the United States team. But nothing is guaranteed for him in 2009 with the W.B.C. But what might be of concern now is where will he be reporting to after the classic is over in 2009? In a recent article online, it was stated that Tiger’s center fielder Curtis Granderson called Griffey Jr about his time in the 2006 WBC and asked his advice if he should play for the team. It is not known what Griffey said to Granderson, but the player accepted a invitation to play for the U S team today, and he might be one of the heir apparents to Griffey’s center field spot on the squad.
Now that the Tampa Bay Rays have signed Burrell, it seems that he will not be near home in 2009, unless the Rays can find a way to bring him on board at a reduced price, or maybe shave off some payroll in other areas of the team. Now personally, I would have been honored if the guy had chosen my Rays as his team for 2009. I think the guy is all class, and I got to meet him briefly before the ALDS becuase of an old friend who is playing for the Chicago White Sox. I found him refreshing and totally accessible, and he signed a ball for me without me even asking him for an autograph. We chatted a few minutes before he had to get into the locker room, but it will remain as one of my best baseball moments. It will sit right along side of photo memory of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris both holding me for a picture at Al Lang Field when I was young ( 1961 ).
No, the likely destination for Griffey Jr. might, and should be the place where it all began for him. He should be allowed to return to Seattle and help the Mariners during their rebuilding years and to finally play his last game in the stadium that he helped get built in the Emerald City. He has had that town in his mind ever since they drafted him in the First Round in 1987. He finally made it to the big leagues in 1989, and has not looked back since then. He was a part of the Mariners first post season berth, and still has a soft spot for the team’s ownership and the town in general.
I know I would love it if he was still playing in 2015 ( doubtfully, but I can dream) when I retire to Seattle to see this great player stride to the plate in his last at bat, in that last home game. I know it will be an end of a era of sorts not only in Seattle, but also in baseball. We might never see another player like Ken Griffey Jr. in our lifetime. There are a lot of ballplayers I grew up with that I see at Legends games and charity events throughout Florida during Spring Training, but the games I alsways have looked forward to were the contests against the Reds and the Rays to watch Griffey Jr. just hit the ball during B P . His troke is so pure and seems without effort at times. It is a wonder to just stare at the bat and watch it go through the zone to make contact with the ball.
Just as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig mesmerized and produced a baseball love affair for my dad and millions of other fans who never even saw them play some 80 years ago, Griffey Jr. will be one of the true baseball icons we remember when we are sitting on the porch remembering the greatness about baseball in our old age. And you know the one thing I will remember most about this great guy…………..that boyish smile that starts at BP, and grows until the last out of the game. I have never, ever seen him get angry or even get ejected from a ball game, even though it might have happened a few times in his career.
Griffey Jr. deserves to be a first ballot inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame after his career. I think the guy has a few more productive years in him before he might even think about hanging up his Nike spikes and spending the rest of his life in Orlando, Florida with his wife and kids. But, you never know with baseball. In all probability he will be signed before Spring Training and report as usual to begin another great year on the diamond. And to see him having fun in the sport that has given him and us so much to always remember.