Griffey has memorable finale in Seattle
Reds right fielder homers twice to cap special homecoming
SEATTLE -- A nostalgic weekend that was mostly about the return of Ken Griffey Jr. ended Sunday afternoon, with the main attraction suggesting that ending his career where it started sure would be cool."Athletes always want to retire with the team they started with, and I am no different than anybody else," Griffey said. "I still have a few more years, though, so I don't think it will be anytime soon. If it happens, it happens, but right now, I have to try to help win games for the team I'm with." The 37-year-old has one year -- plus an option year -- remaining on the contract he signed with the Reds after being acquired from the Mariners prior to the 2000 season. He has the right to veto any trade that the Reds might want to make until he becomes a free agent. But judging from the reception he received during his three-day visit to his Major League roots, returning at a later date certainly would be popular. All three Interleague games sold out, matching the previous season total. "It was everything I thought it would be, and more," Griffey said. "It was nice to be back, nice to see some friends and family that I haven't seen in awhile. I really enjoyed my time here, the four days I was here. "I always thought I would be back. I just never knew when." The pregame ceremony Friday night that welcomed him back was special for anyone in the ballpark dubbed, "The House that Griffey Built." As though scripted, Junior had a special ending for his much-anticipated visit. He hit a home run to left field in the first inning and a home run to right field in the fifth, catching and passing Mark McGwire on the Major League all-time home run list. He now has 584 and it's just a matter of time before he reaches the 600 mark. As he began his postgame gathering with the media in the Safeco Field interview room, Junior said his former teammate Jay Buhner actually "called today's game."
Griffey and his family spent Thursday night at Buhner's home in Issaquah, Wash., and they talked, among other things, of the upcoming series."Jay said, 'Knowing your luck, you're going to hit a couple of home runs on Sunday and you are going to lose, 3-2.' He said that on Thursday." Griffey was penciled in as the designated hitter for Sunday's finale, but went to Reds manager Jerry Narron before the game and asked if he could play right field, explaining that it wouldn't be fair for the Seattle fans to see him anywhere but in the outfield. He was cheered every time he went to his position during the series, and when he caught the final out of the bottom of the eighth inning, Junior turned and waved to the fans sitting in the right-field bleachers. "It was my way of thanking them," he said. "They probably knew that probably was my last time coming back out there. I just wish it could be like that all the time." Griffey said he wasn't trying to hit home runs in either of the at-bats he did on Sunday. "The first day, I tried," he said. "Today, I didn't. I just wanted to put a good swing on it." He went 3-for-4 in the series finale and was 5-for-13 in the series. But throughout the weekend, he was No. 1. And no one else was even close.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.