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Griffey will be missed as much as ambassador as a player

Posted Thursday, June 3, 2010, at 9:06 PM

Where o' where has all the time gone?

It seems hard to believe that Ken Griffey Jr. is old enough to retire already, but then again I suppose that sometimes I forget that I surpassed the 30-year-old barrier several years ago and that time continues to march on. Wasn't it just a few years ago that 'The Kid' broke into the major leagues with such flair that the most important thing to the young me was finding his elusive Upper Deck rookie card? While I did manage to scarf up a couple of them back in 1989, it hardly seems that Griffey's 22-year career has already come to pass. I know that I'll miss the youthful exuberance that he displayed on the field nearly to the end. After all, how much day-to-day joy can one continue to display when your 40-years-old and the rigors of professional sports mount on the aging body. Griffey was rarely without that electric smile that earned him the nickname that he wore so well. 'The Kid' was what made the game so much fun to watch during a decade that is now recognized more for Human Growth Hormone (HGH) than for the level of baseball played. Griffey helped erase some of that black eye that the sport so badly sports because of the steroid allegations that have run rampant.

Nearly from the time that he romped around the Cincinnati Reds' clubhouse during his childhood, fans began to take notice of Senior's son and his genetic ability to play the game at a high level. Once he reached high school, his feats became that of legend. Playing right in the Reds' backyard at Archbishop Moeller High School in Cincinnati, Griffey was the No. 1 draft pick in the majors and set off for Bellingham, Wash. as a skinny 17-year-old that was destined for greatness from the arrival of his first professional pitch.

In his first season he batted a robust .313 with 14 home runs, 40 RBIs and 13 stolen bases in a shortened season. He then followed that up in 1988 with a promotion to Class A Advanced San Bernadino and pummeled pitching to the tune of .338 with 74 hits, 11 home runs, 42 RBI's and 32 steals in just 58 games. He wrapped up the season by playing at Double-A Vermont and hit .279 with 10 RBIs and two homers in 17 starts.

The plan was apparently to send Griffey back for a final tune-up in the minors in 1989 as a non-roster invitee to Spring Training in 1989, but the Seattle Mariners couldn't ignore his performance.

Griffey hit .359 with 21 RBIs in just 26 Spring Training games as he made the Opening Day roster and proved it wasn't a fluke, smacking 16 home runs and driving in 61 in just 127 games.

The rest they say is history, Gold Gloves, All-Star selections and a poster on nearly every young ball players' wall. 'The Kid' was elected to Major League Baseball's All-Century Team in 1999 and no one deserved it more. As perhaps the best ambassador that the sport has ever had, Griffey's presence will certainly be missed on the diamond after his retirement on Wednesday.

Griffey hit more than 30 home runs nine times in his career and finished with 630 for his career to go with a career batting average of .284. He also drove in more than 100 runs eight times and has a career on-base percentage of .370.

Hard to believe that time has brought an end to such a sterling career, but inevitably, all good things must end. For Griffey, a career that began on one coast, will certainly end on the other, in a small New York town called Cooperstown.



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