Not only was he a baseball hero in Seattle, Ken Griffey Jr. was an icon and role model to baseball players and fans worldwide. Wednesday, June 2nd 2010 will be a day that will forever be remembered in the sports world, it is the day “The Kid” officially announced his retirement from Major League Baseball… exactly 23 years to the day that he was drafted by the Seattle Mariners (not to mention the exact date that fellow legend Babe Ruth retired). 40-year-old Griffey told the M’s manager Don Wakamatsu that he would no longer be playing, leaving Wakamatsu to make the announcement to the team and media shortly before Seattle faced Minnesota. Without doubt, No. 24 will greatly be missed.
This announcement marks the ending to one of the greatest careers in baseball history. Fans attending Wednesday night’s game were informed prior to the first pitch while the grounds crew put Griffey’s #24 in the sand behind second base. His official statement is very touching and reminds us all of why he is so admired and will be missed by Seattle. He truly is the heart and soul of the franchise.
“I’ve come to a decision today to retire from Major League Baseball as an active player. This has been on my mind recently, but it’s not an easy decision to come by. I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to have played Major League Baseball for so long and thankful for all of the friendships I have made, while also being proud of my accomplishments.
I’d like to thank my family for all of the sacrifices they have made all of these years for me. I’d like to thank the Seattle Mariners organization for allowing me to finish my playing career where it started. I look forward to a continued, meaningful relationship with them for many years to come.
While I feel I am still able to make a contribution on the field, and nobody in the Mariners front office has asked me to retire, I told the Mariners when I met with them prior to the 2009 season and was invited back, that I will never allow myself to become a distraction. I feel that without enough occasional starts to be sharper coming off the bench, my continued presence as a player would be an unfair distraction to my teammates, and their success as team is what the ultimate goal should be.
My hope is that my teammates can focus on baseball and win a championship for themselves and for the great fans of Seattle, who so very much deserve one. Thanks to all of you for welcoming me back, and thanks again to everyone over the years who has played a part in the success of my career. “
On the books he was one of the game’s best. Junior’s highlights include averaging .284, 630 HR’s (off of 407 different pitchers, leading the franchise with 417 of them in a Seattle uniform and fifth on the all-time list), 1,836 RBIs, 2,781 hits, 1,192 extra base hits, 524 doubles, 7 Silver Slugger awards, 13 time All-Star, 1 Most Valuable Player award and 10 Golden Glove awards. He was also voted to the All-Century team before the age of 30. As you can see, after 22 Major League Seasons his stats are nothing shy of impressive, but he meant more than numbers to Seattle. The only thing he lacks is a World Series appearance, but somehow that does not take away (at all) from his remarkable career. Let’s just hope he wants to come back and win one on the coaching side of the game!
He was the first overall pick in the 1987 first-year player draft and played his first 11 seasons with the Mariners. He then spent the next 8 and half with the Reds, playing a brief stint with the White Sox in the latter half of the ’08 season. He then knew he had to finish his career where it all began. He returned the Seattle Mariners in the 2009 season and had many wondering whether he was going to come back in 2010 or not. The rest is history.
Junior might have started and ended his MLB career in a Mariner’s uniform, but he has not reached his final stop on one of the most talked about baseball journeys. In about 6 years from now, we will all be watching in excitement as this first-ballot future Hall-of-Famer finds himself in Cooperstown. Still, this end of an era will forever remain bittersweet for Seattle fans. It is sad to know the irreplaceable Ken Griffey Jr. and his departure has finally come, but the city is supportive and more than grateful that their hero decided to end his career where he grew up.