What does Junior mean to me? Let me start by saying I’m a baseball fan so of course I’m a fan of Junior. In terms of the 9 Inning Crew I would say Josh and Trevor are bigger fans then me. They grew up in the Pacific Northwest and I’m a California boy but I’m fairly sure I’m a bigger fan then Stormin Norman.
If you were a kid in the 1990’s and you were a baseball fan, chances are your favorite player was Junior especially if you grew up in the Pacific Northwest. Griffey is one of the best center fielders the game has ever seen, starting at the young age of 19. I was able to witness two events that were special for Griffey and myself. One was a game that should have been Griffey’s last game at Safeco field and his Mariner’s Hall of Fame induction.
On October 4th 2009 I was lucky enough to attend the final game of the season and the reason I wanted to attend this game was that most people thought it was going to be Junior’s last ever game. It wasn’t but it really should have been.
Going into the 9th inning the Mariners were up 4-3 and Junior was coming up and he was 0-3. He ended up hitting a single and being replaced by a pinch runner. Obviously he got a huge standing ovation since most of the 32,000 fans there thought it could be his last game. After the game all players came out to acknowledge the fans and Junior along with Ichiro ended up being carried around the field on a couple different player’s shoulders. It was a great moment and something I will never forgot.
Just recently I was able to go to Juniors Mariners Hall of Fame Induction. It was one of the those games that when tickets went up for sale in March I was in line early to make sure I got my tickets and it was a good thing because the game was sold out.
46,000plus fans showed up all wearing Junior gear. The game itself stunk but to be there as they announced Junior and he came out of the center field gate walking past center field where they had #24 in the grass, it gave me instant goose bumps. All the Mariners Hall of Famers were there; Alvin Davis, The late Dave Niehaus’s wife, Jay Buhner, Edgar Martinez, Dan Wilson and Randy Johnson.
Junior had a story about each one of them. Some of the people who had messages for Junior were played over the Mariners jumbotron. Lou Pinella, Bo Jackson, Willie Mays, Ichiro and his oldest son Trey who when he came on Junior saw it and instantly broke down into tears.
One of the highlights of Junior’s speech was when he talked about his good friend Jay Buhner and he waited to the very end of his speech to do it. The last thing he said was, “if anything ever happened to me and my wife and my parents the person I would have watch my kids would be Jay Buhner and he could see him instantly break down”. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m glad I was there to witness it.