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As Long as We Remember...

July 1, 2010

Ken Griffey, Jr., All Star

Derek Shackelford

Baseball has been called America’s pastime. There are many reasons for this depending upon the sources drawn from.  One reason is that baseball has brought families together for the enjoyment of playing and watching the sport together.


Baseball has a way of bringing people together. Young children play in youth leagues. Teenagers play in Little Leagues and Babe Ruth Leagues. Adults play in college, in the minor leagues and in the major leagues. Baseball is a sport that can be played by anyone from the youngest to the oldest.


There is something about the nostalgia of the game that people have an affinity to enjoy. Fans cheer for their favorite team and root against their rivals. Baseball even has a way – like many sports – to draw us to athletes who may have a heroic appeal. They may even seem to be larger than life simply because they can run, throw or hit a baseball farther than some of us can dream. There is a little athlete in all of us.


Unfortunately in what is the modern era the game has been tarnished because of the acknowledgement and wide spread report of performance-enhancing drug usage. Human growth hormone and steroids are apparently the most widely used elements.


It was okay for players to use these drugs as long as revenue was skyrocketing, television appeal was growing, contracts were blossoming, attendance was booming and homeruns were on the rise. This drew the casual fan to the game by simply wanting to see a player hit the baseball an astronomical amount of feet.


Baseball officialdom took a wink and a nod approach to what many people were suspecting. Players pretended to not know or simply overlooked the tainting of the game. Cheating appeared to be the rule – not the exception. Some of the best homerun hitters with apparent over inflated statistics were celebrated by baseball fans. Some of the game’s best stars of this era have acknowledged or been accused of steroid use. Can we call the roll?


Barry Bonds? Check! Mark McGwire? Check. Alex Rodriguez? Check. Sammy Sosa? Check. Roger Clemens? Check. Jason Giambi? Check.


These are just some of the big name stars who have acknowledged usage while also holding current home run records or other statistical records. To the casual fan the thought occurs that any player who has a reasonable amount of success could possibly be placed into this category. Which leads me to one who has never been suspected or even been remotely accused – Ken Griffey, Jr.


Mr. Griffey was selected as the first overall draft pick in the 1987 draft. His statistics are most worthy of a future Hall of Fame induction. They include 630 homeruns, 2,781 hits, 1,836 RBI’s, 10 Gold Glove awards, 13-time All Star Game selection, and the 1997 American League MVP. He was also a member of Major League Baseball’s All Century Team.


For a stretch of 11 years with the Seattle Mariners, Mr. Griffey was arguably one of the greatest baseball players in any era. His fluidity, grace and youthful love of the game drew him to baseball fans and teammates. Earlier this year, he announced his retirement with no fanfare or press conference. He simply did it with a press release that his skills had diminished and he was no longer an asset to the team.


No matter how much we wish for things to last forever. It doesn’t and it never will. Our hope is that time would sometimes stand still so that we can simply enjoy the moment. Watching Ken Griffey, Jr., play baseball was one of those times.


There are only a few moments that whatever we are doing, we stop and give undivided attention. When Ken Griffey, Jr. was batting it was one of those moments. He was nicknamed “The Kid,” a moniker given to him early in his career.


So long Kid, the game will miss you!


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