A Hall of fame career has come to an end. The man known simply as "Junior" has called a career.
After 630 Home Runs, 13 All-Star Games, 10 consecutive Gold Glove Awards and thousands of everlasting moments, Ken Griffey Jr. walks away from the game of baseball; undoubtedly as one of the greatest to ever play the game.
Before he donned his nickname "The Kid", he literally was just a kid. Only 19 years of age, he was living out his lifelong dream and playing alongside his dad in the outfield for the Seattle Mariners. Little did he know that not only would he go on to overshadow his father, he would also save baseball in Seattle.
By the age of 20, he was already starting in All-Star games and winning Gold Gloves. During his first run in Seattle, he literally did everything a man could possibly do individually in this game with the exception of winning it all. He was named to the All-Century Team at the age of 29 for crying out loud!
When of think of some of the reasons that I fell in love with baseball, I think of Ken Griffey Jr. and how he used to lay it all out on the line. In 1995, he made the catch you see to your right and broke his wrist in the process. He did whatever it took to win and he did it the right way.
In an era consumed with the talk of the use of preformance-enhancing drugs, Griffey not only managed to dominate and terrorize the opposition, but he also managed to come out of that era with a fully clean slate and nothing but class.
Griffey took his game back home to Cincinnati prior to the 2000 season and I can remember, as a Mets fan, being so excited that i'd finally be able to go see him play against my team. He went 2 for 5 that day and made a spectacular catch in CF to rob Benny Agbayani of a hit and I found myself cheering. He went on to belt 40 Homers that year. However, his legs caught up to his reckless play as he spent the following 4 seasons injury-plagued. He hit his 500th Home Run in 2004 at the age of 34, but if he was healthy he would have gotten to the number much sooner without question. Although it's debated, I have no doubt in my mind that if he didn't miss so many games he would have broken the Home Run Record.
At the age of 39 and clearly not the beast he once was, Griffey returned to Safeco Field, the house that he built, to end his career with the Mariners. Even though he didn't end on top of his game, he ended his career with the team he should have never even left.
We may never see another player as athletic as he was. These days, athletes that possess what he had end up playing Basketball or Football. Griffey revolutionized the way the Outfield position was played, just like Willie Mays had done before him.
It's very difficult to see your old heroes towards the end of their careers with diminished skills, but he will not be remembered for that. I'll always remember him wearing his hat backwards with that beaming smile. I'll remember his mammoth Home Runs. I'll remember how he'd scale the wall to rob Home Runs. When I talk to my kids someday about who the best of All-Time were, I'll tell them about Ken Griffey Jr.