While I fondly remember watching "The Kid" make highlight catches and blast home runs all throughout growing up, kids today must think that Griffey is just a injury-prone old guy who isn't that cool. But that couldn't be farther from the truth. Griffey was the epitome of cool. After he came up, everyone kid was wearing their hats backwards and rocking their shoulders when they hit. The walls of my room were covered top to bottom with everything Griffey you could think of: pictures, posters, bobbleheads, starting line-up guys, anything. I didn't go anywhere without my Mariners hat on and I'm from central New Jersey. I've never even been off the east coast! On every baseball team there was nearly a brawl to wear no. 24 and be like Junior.
One quote from Griffey sums him up, "As long as I have fun playing, the stats will take care of themselves." Back in his days on the Seattle Mariners, Griffey was on top of the world. Everyone loved the new kid who did everything and always wore a huge smile to the park. Sadly, when Griffey left to go to Cincinnati, the storybook tale didn't continue. He had to shed his famous 24 and took on no. 30, eventually honoring his father by switching to no. 3. Junior was a star whenever he played, however, he was riddled with injuries and rarely played in a full season. By the time he got over those injuries, he was well past his prime and into the twilight of his career. Last year, Griffey was traded to the White Sox and it just didn't seem right to see him don the no. 17 jersey.
By the time he is done, Griffey will be a sure-fire, first-ballot hall of famer. He's won 10 gold gloves, was named to 10 straight all-star games, won an MVP, and was named to the All-Century Team despite only playing 10 seasons in that century! Also, Griffey will have over 2700 hits, 620 hrs and 1800 rbi's. Not to mention, Griffey lost parts of or most of 6 seasons due to his rash of injuries, not to mention the strike season of 94 when he was off to a blistering pace and put up .323/40hr/90rbi's in only 111 games! That's a fantastic 162 for any other player. Thinking about what could have been for Ken Griffey Jr. always makes me a little sad. Griffey could have been regarded as the best who ever played with over 800 lifetime home runs. But, there's no telling what he would have accomplished with a clean bill of health, so we'll all just have to wonder.
Every summer, even today, I pray that Griffey will enter the Home Run Derby and show off the sweet swing that helped him mash so many home runs. Sometimes, I find myself perusing eBay, looking for people who are discarding old Griffey jerseys or shoes, anything to relive his glory days. I wear my old school Mariners Griffey shirt all the time and still have his poster on my wall for all to see. I've never been starstruck of any celebrity or athlete, but if I ever got the chance to meet Griffey, or even see him across a crowded room, I think I would lose consciousness.
Now, before his 20th season, Griffey is going to be in search of employment and possibly, one last hurrah to get a ring. Now that the Phillies have won the big one, I'll be hoping in the back of my mind that whatever team he signs to wins it all, because he deserves it. After years of being over shadowed by the steroid era and injuries, Griffey deserves gratification for his abilities and all of his hard work. Now, I beg you: appreciate him while you still can. Sometime soon it's all going to be over and only in Cooperstown will we be able to celebrate his illustrious career. I know that I'll always remember him as the backwards hat wearing, home run king. When I have children and they have children, I'll constantly be telling stories of Ken Griffey Jr., the best baseball player who I ever saw, and in my mind, the best this sport has ever seen.