Griffey Returns to Seattle in Grand Fashion

Ken Griffey, Jr. is the reason that baseball is still played in Seattle. It may sound cliché to say that Seattle’s Safeco Field is ‘The house that Griffey built,’ but it’s the truth. Before Griffey hit the majors in 1989, the Mariners were perhaps the most lackluster franchise in baseball. They were marred by low attendance and the franchise appeared to be headed towards relocation. That all changed when a skinny, fresh-faced, nineteen year old kid got called up to Seattle. That kid was Ken Griffey, Jr., he would become the most popular baseball player of the nineties and baseball would be saved in Seattle. Griffey, however, would request a trade from the Mariners after the 1999 season. Griffey would not return until June 22, 2007 and it would be in grand fashion.

After Griffey was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in 1999, both the Seattle Mariners and Ken Griffey have run into some bad luck. In the 2000 season, the Mariners won the American League Western Division. They would fail to reach the World Series and haven’t made the post season since. Griffey, meanwhile, would suffer a barrage of injuries and fail to match his Seattle success in Cincinnati. When the 2007 schedule was released, the late June series in Seattle between the Mariners and Reds was highly anticipated. People wondered how Griffey would be treated returning to his former home. Alex Rodriguez and Randy Johnson both left Seattle and came back to hear a stadium of Mariner fans booing them. It made baseball fans ask ‘will Seattle treat their baseball savior the same way?’

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The Mariners’ organization went to great lengths to make sure that Griffey’s return was a celebration and not a place for bitter Mariner fans to display their anger with Junior. In the weeks leading up to Griffey’s return, the Mariners gave fans commemorative baseballs that said ‘Griffey Returns to Seattle.’ The Mariners also let it be known that they planned on having a pre-game ceremony for Griffey before the Friday night game. Griffey would get a proper return to the stadium that he helped build in Seattle.

During the pre-game ceremony, Griffey received a very warm ovation from the crowd. Although no tears were shed, you could tell that Griffey was genuinely appreciative. He told the crowd he ‘didn’t realize he’d miss Seattle so much.’ The love from the fans continued to shower upon Griffey each time he went to bat or took his position in right field. Griffey capped off the love-fest with two homeruns in the last game of the series.

It was the type of homecoming that is rarely seen in sports today. There is no sports figure more deserving of such a homecoming than Griffey. What he did in Seattle is truly remarkable and it isn’t a stretch to say that the Mariners wouldn’t be in Seattle if it weren’t for Griffey. Luckily, the fact that Griffey left Seattle on bad terms did not ruin his return and has opened up the possibility of him retiring as a Mariner. Griffey in the Hall of Fame as a Mariner, it’s the perfect ending to his career and now it appears likely. Thankfully for all involved, time can heal just about everything.