A Mariners Living Legend
My words likely won’t mean much, but here they are:
Ken Griffey Jr.,
You are the best of baseball. You exemplify what the game is and showed us Mariners fans how to enjoy it just as much as you did.
Your boyish grin day-in and day-out, the way you approached every game, and the countless hours you spent getting better off the field set a precedent for a new era of baseball players.
We watched you from a very young age develop from a talented young Seattle Mariner to one of the greatest the game has ever seen. You filled our homes with excitement, pleasure, joy, and sometimes heartache.
We remember the way you sacrificed your body for the city of Seattle. We shared in your pain as you walked off the field with an injury sustained from too much effort. But then again, you never believed in too much effort.
Though it is not physically possible, you always gave it 110%. In each and every aspect you gave the city of Seattle your all.
You brought excitement to a city that needed it.
Prior to your success, Mariner fans didn’t have much to cheer about (as I’m sure you know). We were stuck in a rut, still looking for our first playoff berth, and many believed baseball would fail in the Emerald City. That all changed, however, when the Mariners drafted you. It took awhile to get there, but sure enough you helped lead Seattle to its first-ever appearance in the playoffs, and then you did even more.
Down by a run in extra innings against the hated New York Yankees, you stood on first base, representing a winning run that would send the Mariners to the American League Championship Series.
And then, in the blink of an eye (or rather in the time frame of an Edgar Martinez double), you flew around the bases and immortalized the 1995 campaign in Seattle sports lore.
You darted around the field like a cheetah, touching second, then third, and then finally sliding into home with a smile that would come to define your first stint with the Mariners.
Though the miracle season was halted earlier than we had hoped, you didn’t stop improving in the coming years. In fact, you got better. With your smooth swing and incredible passion for the game you shot up the charts in the game and contended for record after record. You helped your teammates grow and became friends with an entire city.
And of course, as you already know, you saved baseball in Seattle.
But then, you left. You went to Cincinnati to pursue a lifelong dream that we couldn’t understand at first. But now, looking back on it, you never really left, did you? I mean, the Mariners continued to play in a house that you built.
The organization would be nothing without you, and I think that’s something we failed to recognize at the time. Though your physical presence was missed, you still surrounded the organization within the confines of Safeco Field, “The House that Griffey Built”.
And then, you came back. First dazzling us with your impressive home run swing as a Red when you visited for the first time since your departure, we then threw a party when we learned you would be donning a Seattle jersey once again. Though much time had passed since your days of crushing home runs and speeding around the bases, one thing did not change: your passion and attitude surrounding the game.
You still brought your boyish attitude to the park and reinvigorated a fan base that had — once again — not much to cheer for.
Your final stint with the Mariners was shorter than we would have hoped, but it was all that was necessary. We got to see Ken Griffey Jr., arguably one of the best players to ever set foot on a baseball diamond, head out of the game in a Seattle jersey.
These few words really can’t convey the true admiration fans of the Mariners have for you, but I hope it is a reminder that the Mariners, and a passion for baseball in Seattle, only survives because of you.
Kids across the state get to hear the legend of Griffey and continue to want to become a shred of the player you were, while those of us who were lucky to witness your greatness are able to remember the best years of our sporting lives.
You’ll always be “The Kid” to us, and we would not have it any other way.
Thank you for everything once again, Junior.
Without you, baseball would not be the same.