SEATTLE — The stadium was packed to the brim with Griffey jerseys all standing, waiting for the entrance of an icon.
Then the seventh member of the Mariners Hall of Fame made his entrance from behind the centerfield fence, which he used to hit balls over and stop balls from sailing over. Walking over his own signature Number 24 with that patented smile on his face.
As Junior made his walk in from centerfield the feeling of nostalgia swept over the stadium knowing he would never play his favorite position again. Even the current players of the Mariners had their hats on backwards to honor “The Kid” with his signature look.
Junior could not sit down and get comfortable as the Griffey faithful had him back on his feet giving salute after salute before the ceremony could continue.
Mariners broadcaster Rick Rizzs gave the perfect description of the scene saying simply, “They love ya buddy.” And those words have never been truer than during the pregame induction ceremony.
To look around the stadium, it was easy to see the love Seattle holds for the young man from Cincinnati. Each and every face was covered in tears from start to finish.
Including Junior, but only after he received a message from a secret visitor.
Trey Griffey, who could not attend the ceremony because he was at football camp for the University of Arizona where he is a wide receiver, stopped by via video to deliver the final blow to the walls holding back Junior’s waterworks.
When Junior watched his son say, “As I was growing up, I just wanted to be just like you,” he finally broke down and we got to catch a rare glimpse of an emotional side of Junior.
It just so happens Junior’s turn to speak was up next. A sneaky, but great move by the Mariners, led to Griffey having to take over the mic as tears still streamed down his face from the sight of his oldest son.
Griffey’s classic walkup song, Naughty by Nature’s “Hip Hop Hooray” came blaring over the speakers and Junior took to directing the crowd, waving his arms back and forth like he always did. The joy for the moment, the crowd and the love of the game all clearly showing on Junior’s face.
Junior’s speech mirrored his baseball career, as he pushed all the attention off of himself and onto everyone who helped make his career memorable. He heaped mountains of praise onto the other six members of the Mariners Hall of Fame saying, “I am truly honored and humbled to be associated with these people here.”
He left the podium with a phrase that perfectly characterizes the selfless and humble man that he is, “Thank you.”
The numbers in Griffey’s career speak for themselves 630 home runs, sixth all-time, a 13-time All-Star, 10 straight Gold Gloves and the 1997 American League MVP. As most of us know, he is a shoo-in for Cooperstown, but as I was standing there teary-eyed with rest of the crowd, I realized something.
Moments like this one on August 10th, 2013 at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington do not come around very often. To look around an entire stadium and see every spectator in tears over the career of one player is something magical.
Junior played the game the right way and it made everyone who knows anything about the game of baseball love and admire him.
And, as Cincinnati Reds fans, we are lucky because we got to see almost ten seasons of one of the greatest careers there will ever be.
It’s hard to believe we look at a player with 630 career homers and think, “what if?”
But, what Junior did was simply amazing and there will soon be a new plaque in Cooperstown.
The greatest Mariner of all time.
Hand in hand with Willie Mays as the greatest center fielder of all time.
And you cannot talk about the Greatest Baseball Player of All Time without mentioning, George Kenneth “Ken” Griffey Jr. that smiley kid from Cincinnati, Ohio.