Ken Griffey Jr

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Ken Griffey, Jr.

Ken Griffey, Jr. in 2004

Position Center Field
Team Cincinnati Reds
Years of Experience 16 years
Age 35
Height 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Weight 218 lb (99 kg)
Bats Left
Throws Left
College N/A
2005 Salary $10,365,692
Place of Birth Donora, Pennsylvania
Selection Amateur draft, 1987
Drafted by Seattle Mariners
Major League Debut April 3, 1989

George Kenneth Griffey, Jr. (born November 21, 1969 in the Pittsburgh suburb of Donora, Pennsylvania) is an American Major League Baseball player. He was raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, where his father, Ken Griffey, Sr., played most of his best years with the Cincinnati Reds. The younger Griffey played at Moeller High School, a Catholic school in Cincinnati better known for its football program. As a Major League Baseball player he has compiled superior hitting statistics, and was awarded a Gold Glove Award for defensive excellence in 10 consecutive seasons, from 1990 to 1999, while playing center field for the Seattle Mariners. Griffey, Jr. played on the same team as his father with the Seattle Mariners in 1990 and 1991.

Griffey, Jr.'s career began with the Seattle Mariners in 1989. He won the American League Most Valuable Player award in 1997, hitting .304, with 56 home runs and 147 runs batted in. He signed a long-term contract with the Cincinnati Reds following the 1999 season. He has been injury-prone since joining the Reds. Ken Griffey, Sr. has been one of the team's coaches. During Griffey Jr.'s tenure with the Seattle Mariners, he established himself over the years as one of baseball's premier players, with the potential of being considered one of the greatest players ever. He was a multi-dimensional player during a time when more and more players usually excelled at either hitting or fielding, but rarely both. Griffey could hit with high average, batting over .300 for seven of the ten years of the 1990s, and hit with power as well, by hitting 422 home runs during the decade. His abilities in centerfield arguably were paralleled by no one. Griffey often made over the shoulder catches, the kind that Willie Mays immortalized during the 1954 World Series, with a play simply known as the Catch. For these reasons, Ken Griffey, Jr. was one of baseball's most respected and well liked players during the 1990s, as one could routinely see his picture on cereal boxes and television commercials, and he was a mainstay of the All-Star Game during the decade.

File:Griffey artwork.jpg
Ken Griffey Jr. painted on a wall in downtown Seattle, 1994. The tick marks indicate how many home runs he had hit up to that point.

Despite Griffey, Jr.'s fantastic performance, and seemingly bright future in Seattle, he nonetheless became disenchanted with playing for the Mariners. Publicly, he expressed frustration over what he believed was a lack of commitment to winning from the management of the Mariners. Also, there was speculation that Griffey was very unhappy with Seattle's new Safeco Field, in which it was much more difficult to maintain the level of power he had while playing in the Kingdome. It's been reported that Griffey, Jr., among other Mariners players, requested the architects of Safeco Field bring the fences closer to home plate. However, much to the players' chagrin, the architects designed a park with a deep center field. This, combined with Safeco being at sea level, and Seattle's generally dense, moisture-laden atmosphere, helped create a "pitcher friendly" ball park. In the summer of 1999, it was reported that Ken Griffey, Jr. hit a ball that would likely have been a home run in the Kingdome, but turned into a long fly-out to center in Safeco. Griffey, Jr. then stormed angrily to the Mariner dugout telephone, called the Mariners' general manager, and demanded to be traded that day. Although Griffey, Jr. has always denied his concern with baseball records, his behavior seemed to indicate in 1999 that he definitely had his ambitions set towards breaking Hank Aaron's all time home run record.

Griffey, Jr. ultimately got his wish, and started the 2000 season with his father's former team, the Cincinnati Reds. Initially, the future looked extremely bright for him there—he was given an extremely warm welcome by the fans of Cincinnati, the city in which he had grown up, and Griffey, Jr. was reportedly very pleased to be playing on his father's former team. On the open market, Griffey, Jr. could have made several million dollars more than the contract offered by the small market and notoriously penurious Reds, thus showing how much he wanted to play for them. However, the 2000 season began what has become the long, steady, and painful decline of Griffey's Jr's superstar status. Although his statistics during this season were respectable, they were far below his previous level of play, hitting .271 with 40 home runs, and playing 145 games. From 2001 through 2004, Griffey, Jr. was plagued by various injuries, and the last three of those years saw season-ending injuries. Many speculate the injuries are a result of a decade of playing on the Kingdome's artificial turf, which players claim is like playing the game on asphalt. Whatever their causes, injuries forced Griffey, Jr. to miss 260 out of 486 games from 2002 through 2004. Consequently, he is not nearly the ubiquitous presence he once was on cereal boxes, television commercials, and the All-Star Game.

File:Griffey swing.jpg
Ken Griffey Jr's famous swing, Spring Training 2004.

In 2004, Griffey, Jr. avoided major injury during the first half of the season and on June 20 became the 20th player to reach 500 career home runs. The 500th home run came on Father's Day in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium, with his father Ken Sr. in the stands, a hit that also tied him with his father for career hits with 2,143. However, the injury bug struck again just before the All-Star break; he suffered a partial hamstring tear, knocking him out of the All-Star Game and putting him on the disabled list. He did get his 500th home run ball from a fan who was also there for Father's Day with his dad. The fan received many awards from Griffey Jr.

Ken Griffey, Jr. finished the 2004 season on the disabled list after suffering a complete rupture of his right hamstring in San Francisco on August 11. The play in question occurred at SBC Park in a game against the San Francisco Giants. Griffey was starting in right field for the first time in his 16-year Major League career when he raced toward the gap to try to cut off a ball before it got to the wall. He slid as he got to the ball, but in the process hyperextended his right leg. He later came out of the game, complaining of "tightness" in the hamstring exacerbated by chilly conditions in San Francisco. But there was far more to it than anyone realized at the time.

Shortly after this injury, the Reds' team physician, Timothy Kremchek, devised an experimental surgery dubbed "The Junior Operation" that would use three titanium screws to reattach Griffey's hamstring. For several weeks, Griffey's right leg was in a sling that kept the leg at a 90-degree angle, and he was not able to move the leg until late October. After an intense rehabilitation period, he returned for the 2005 season. In April, he hit only .244 with only one homer (on April 30) and nine RBI. [1]

Starting May 1, the 2005 season saw the resurgence of a healthy Junior. The fluid swing, which depends heavily on excellent lower body strength, returned to its near-flawless form, now that Griffey's hamstring and calf problems appear behind him. Junior's 35 home runs were his highest since his first year with the Reds (2000: 40 HR). With each ball he sends sailing over the outfield fence, Griffey slowly marches up the career home run list. He ended the season tied with Mickey Mantle, after having passed Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Willie McCovey, Ernie Banks, Eddie Mathews, and Mel Ott in 2005.

Early in September, he strained a tendon in his left foot (an injury unrelated to his past hamstring and calf problems), and was listed as day-to-day for several weeks. On September 22, with the Reds out of playoff contention, the team decided to bench him for the rest of the season so he could immediately have arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and a separate operation to repair scars from his 2004 hamstring operation. Still, his 128 games in 2005 were the most he has played since 2000. Griffey's resurgence was recognized when he was named National League Comeback Player of the Year.

If his health remains intact, Junior could reach 600 home runs sometime in the 2007 season, at age 37. Had the chronic injuries of 2001-2004 not limited his astronomical progess, the discussion would currently be when, not if, Griffey Jr. would surpass Hammerin' Hank's record 755 career home runs.

Griffey and his wife Melissa have 3 children: George Kenneth III ("Trey"), daughter Taryn Kennedy, and adopted son Tevin Kendall. When Trey was born, then-Mariners' G.M. Woody Woodward sent him a player's contract dated 2012.

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