The Ken Griffey Jr. who will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 24 sounds a lot like the one who was born in Donora, Pa., and grew up in Cincinnati.
Very similar to the version who broke in with the Seattle Mariners in 1989, hit his 400th, 500th and 600th home runs as a member of the Cincinnati Reds from 2000-08 and later quietly retired as a Mariner after a brief stint with the White Sox.
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“I’m pretty much just Dad at the house, that hasn’t changed,” Griffey replied when asked about life since learning he is headed to Cooperstown. “I’ve tried to get called certain names. ‘Emperor,’ that didn’t work. ‘Mac daddy,’ my kids didn’t go for that.”
The 46-year-old even claimed to still look around for his dad whenever he hears anyone talk about “Mr. Griffey.”
“I’m just Ken. I want to be as normal as possible,” said Griffey, whose father, Ken Griffey Sr., was a member of the famed Big Red Machine teams in the 1970s. “I understand the magnitude of who I am, what I’ve done and things like that and my place in the game, but I don’t want people to treat me any different than they already have.”
Things he has done include hit 630 home runs (sixth most on the all-time list) in 22 MLB seasons. He won 10 Gold Gloves as a center fielder, made the All-Star Game 13 times and was named to the All-Century team in 1999.
Although it has probably been a long time since anyone treated him in a manner many people would consider “normal,” he credited his father and Mike Cameron, his baseball coach at Moeller High School in Cincinnati, with instilling in him the importance of hard work and humility.
“I did a talent show when I was in third or fourth grade and I imitated all the Reds in their baseball stances and had a couple friends with me and we sang, ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame,’ and I got in the car and my dad said, ‘Hey, you’re not me, and I’m not you. I just want you to be a kid,’ ” Griffey said. “So I learned at an early age, just be yourself.”
Told a large contingent of fans is planning to make the trip from Cincinnati to Cooperstown, Griffey sounded flattered.
“It means a lot,” he said. “I mean, when you have people who take their hard-earned money and want to see a celebration of any magnitude, whether it’s the Hall of Fame or certain things, but when people do things it means a lot.
“For me, it’s overwhelming that people want to come because I grew up in a household that my dad was like, ‘Hey, if you do things right, let your play do all your talking, you don’t have to talk.’ I think people after a while understood me as far as he’s not going to talk about himself, he’s going to talk about everybody else. It’s still a little tough for me to talk about myself.”