Of all the things that passed along the bottom ticker on ESPN last week, one thing in particular caught my eye: Ken Griffey Jr., who will celebrate his 40th birthday on Saturday, is returning to the Seattle Mariners for his 22nd season.
It’s tough to believe that ‘The Kid’ is going to be 40, and that the once unstoppable force was relegated to hitting just .221 last season. Some fans think he’s ruining his legacy by sticking around and showing just a shadow of his old self.
Griffey was the one guy who made baseball look fun. He always had a swagger about him and everything he did, even if it was just chewing gum, looked cool. I think most young boys tried to duplicate that famous batting stance of his.
On the field, he did it all. He hit balls that went a country mile, ran the bases with blazing speed and tracked down balls in the outfield that nobody else could have made a play on.
And sadly, he can’t do those things anymore. But he’s 40, so he isn’t supposed to be able to physically do what he did when he was 25. I think that’s the best part about him.
In 2004, the season in which Barry Bonds turned 40, he hit .362 with 45 home runs and 101 RBI. Maybe he had great genetics, but there’s something a little fishy about that.
Griffey’s body looks 40. His name has never really come up in the steroid conversation. If it ever surfaces that he did use performance enhancing drugs, that might be the final straw for a lot of baseball fans.
From the days of our childhood that were dominated by Bonds, Griffey, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, Griffey is the only one that we have reason to believe was clean.
So with Junior coming back for another year, probably his one last go-round, it will be bittersweet. We’ll get another opportunity to see a player that so many of us idolized as kids.
He will be just a shell of his old self, but that’s not what we are going to remember.
When we are old and gray and look back at all the athletes we had the chance to see over our lifetime, he’s probably going to be one we will talk about.
We got to see his rise and fall, but what a ride it was in between.