Griffey's gruff mien: Just an act
Kids' charities know where they can turn
BY JOHN ERARDI | JERARDI@ENQUIRER.COM
They're on to you, Ken Griffey Jr.
"They" are the people who are involved in the organizations that are on the receiving end of your charitable largesse.
They know you can be moody, sometimes annoying, but they also know that you are giving. They know that when it comes to your treasure, you follow your heart.
They tell us these things because they know you won't. They like blowing your cover as a public curmudgeon.
They tell us that on Friday nights, when the Make-A-Wish kids come to the ballpark, nobody among the Reds players gives them more time than you. They say nobody is in your league when it comes to disappearing into the clubhouse and emerging with bats and gloves and balls for these kids.
They tell us that when kids from the Boys & Girls Club visit the ballpark, you meet with them in a private room so that nobody knows what an old softie you are.
They tell us that not too long ago you cleaned out your home closets and donated "boxes and boxes of clothing" to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cincinnati.
You changed some lives with that donation, Griffey.
Olajuwon Weems, 16, got a full suit, two suit jackets and five pairs of pants.
Olajuwon is 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds, so he didn't have to alter any of the clothes.
"I can go to church now without being embarrassed by my clothes," he said. " I can go for a job interview this summer, and not be embarrassed by my clothes."
They say that back in February, you sent "hundreds" of your signature line of hats and jerseys to the Boys & Girls Club main offices in Cincinnati. No notes, no nothing, just boxes and boxes of jerseys and hats. So they distributed them to the Boys & Girls Clubs around town.
They tell us that for three years you funded a significant portion of the Reds Rookie Success League, a summer program for 500 underprivileged kids.
They say you didn't want word to get out that you were financing it. But you suggested leaving a little hint - that is, embroidering the first initial of each of your three children on a sleeve of the uniform, along with your number.
Just like when Safeco Field opened in Seattle in 1999. You bought two bricks on the plaza level not too far from where you patrolled center field.
On one brick it reads, "Trey & Taryn Griffey." On the other, right next to it, it reads, "The House Their Father Built." They were just two bricks among the passel of bricks bought by regular fans.
You're still building things. It was your idea to autograph 1,000 baseballs which the Mariners will sell for $100 a piece, with the proceeds to be split equally among children's hospitals in Cincinnati, Seattle and Orlando.
And they say one of the most amazing things they ever saw you do still occurs regularly. In city after city, you meet with terminally ill children whose wish is to see you.
"These are kids ... who are going to die in a very short period of time," said Chuck Armstrong, the Seattle Mariners president. "I'd say, 'Kenny, how do you do it? It'd break my heart. I'd spend all my time with them crying.'
"I still don't know how he does it."