Manager thinks players will listen to ‘fatherly’ figure who played 19 years in the big leagues.
By Marc Katz, Staff Writer
2:08 AM Thursday, November 12, 2009
DAYTON — As of Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 11, Todd Benzinger knew he would be returning to the Dragons to manage the team for a second season, but he didn’t know who his coaches would be.
“Really? That’s fantastic,” said the Reds’ former first baseman when he heard his new hitting coach would be Ken Griffey Sr., who finished a 19-year major-league career with a .296 batting average and several All-Star appearances, mostly with the Reds.
“I played with him, and even though Tony Perez was the hitting coach then, Kenny was a batting coach, too,” Benzinger said.
Also returning to the Dragons will be pitching coach Tony Fossas. Last season’s hitting coach, Tony Jaramillo, is expected to be assigned elsewhere in the organization.
During his baseball career, which included stops with the Yankees, Braves and Mariners to play with his son, Ken Griffey Jr., Senior also coached five seasons with the Reds, ending in 2001. Since then, he has been a special assistant to the Reds general manager and a roving hitting instructor.
“They (the Reds) asked me to do it,” said Griffey, who is spending this winter as commissioner of the new Florida Winter Baseball League. “I just want to get on the field doing what I’m capable of doing.
“The younger kids want to go step to step and (have me) tell them what it takes to get to the big leagues.”
Benzinger, Griffey and Fossas all spent significant time in the majors, but Benzinger says Griffey has something more.
“Kenny has almost a fatherly quality,” Benzinger said. “People will listen to Ken everywhere, especially at a younger age. I always enjoyed it when he visited Dayton (as a rover). He adds a lot of wisdom, a lot of laughs, a lot of stories.
“He’s a legendary figure.”
The Dragons, who finished one game shy of making the playoffs last season, open their 11th season April 8 against Lansing at Fifth Third Field.