Monday, January 01, 2007
My Encounter with "The Kid"
Last evening I returned to the States from a 5-day Christmas vacation in the Bahamas full of rolling an excessive amount of 7s, tearing up the rough at the Ocean Club golf course, and laying out by the beach sipping on Bahama Mamas. Meanwhile, the amount of celebrity sightings was beyond ridiculous, to the point where I believe Nassau is either a celebrity safe house or the host of this year's annual Scientology convention. The celebrities included Jessica Alba, Wesley Snipes, James Gandolfini (aka Tony Soprano), Shane McMahon, and Mayor Giuliani.
But the most memorable experience of the vacation was without a doubt meeting Ken Griffey Jr, who was also vacationing the island. Not only did I meet "The Kid", but I spoke for thirty minutes with the player most believed would one day break Hank Aaron's home run record. After admiring a boat parked in the marina adjacent to the Atlantis hotel property, suddenly Ken Griffey Jr. himself appeared from the interior of the boat, armed with a cast on his left hand, he introduced himself to me as "Ken...Griffey".
Beginning by asking about his 115 foot boat, Griffey predominately carried a half an hour conversation with me, discussing a myriad of topics. Griffey told me that he comes to the Bahamas about 3 or 4 times a year, and usually travels to Nassau during the all-star break. In fact, he even told me that while he used to get excited about participating in the all-star game, he no longer cares for the event as the players are so busy it isn't even a break at all. He also stated that each team should have 40 players in order to prevent another All-Star game tie.
Griffey then discussed steroids and the fact that the tests were not random at all. He said he was tested five times last season, and eight the season before. In fact, Griffey said he had to inform Major League Baseball that he was vacationing in the Bahamas, in case they decided they wanted to administer another random test on him.
My father, who was also there, discussed the fact that he and I are from Texas and he remembered Sosa being so skinny on Texas but then in Chicago his body suddenly mirrored the Hulk. Griffey responded by saying, "Yea I remember when he was this big...(and held up his index finger)."
Griffey then reminisced on what it was like to play with his father during the 1991 season in Seattle. While he said it was an amazing time, it was also a little bit stressful. He said things were hard at times though especially during the beginning of the season when he would curse and then awkwardly turn his head over and see his father watching and listening.
Griffey discussed umpires, and the fact that umpires that make bad calls aren't trying to send a message and show up the players, but simply many umpires aren't that good. Griffey said he doesn't bother wasting too much energy arguing with umpires but instead just stares at them for a few seconds after a bad strike call. Griffey informed me that he has only been ejected in three games in his baseball career, including once during a spring training game after the umpire made two atrocious strike three calls, one of which almost hit Griffey. After being ejected that day, Ken said he left the ballpark to play golf with Mark O'Meara and Payne Stewart, not a bad day if you ask me.
Griffey also discussed pitchers and how to distinguish between if the pitcher is going to throw a curve ball or fast ball. He said Pedro cuts his sleeves in a way so that the flap on his sleeve hides his hand which makes it more difficult to determine what he is about to throw. he also advised if I go to a high speed batting cage, not to move my feet to much but swing a short swing if I wanted to try to make contact with the ball.
Griffey also seems like a great family man. He said he enjoys going to the Bahamas so he can spend time fishing with his children. He said each of his children, as well as his wife, have a boat named after them, while he does not own a boat named after himself! He said none of his children are too interested in playing baseball, but prefer basketball and football.
Overall, there is not a doubt in my mind that Ken Griffey Jr. is the nicest celebrity or athlete I have ever met. It wasn't as if I were pestering him with questions, but rather he seemed to enjoy sharing his stories with me, a fan of his, yet a complete stranger. With this, Ken Griffey Jr. is now one of my favorite players and I will cheer for him for as long as he continues to play baseball in the Major Leagues.