Hiring of Baker pleases Griffey
By C. Trent Rosecrans
Post staff reporter
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Friday night Ken Griffey Sr. awarded his son a cup of orange sherbet with sprinkles - the same reward he got as a youth when his team won a game.
There was no baseball game in Louisville on Friday night, but Ken Griffey Jr. was given the first Living Legend Award by Louisville Slugger, the makers of the bats Griffey has used throughout his entire 19-year major league career.
"It didn't matter if I went 4-for-4 or 0-for-4, if my team won, I knew we were going for ice cream," Griffey Jr. said in a montage shown before he was awarded the honor at the Louisville Slugger Museum.
The company honored Griffey for his accumulation of 593 home runs and 2,558 hits in his career - all with the same black model C271.
Griffey was introduced by his father. Griffey Sr. used the company's model S216 throughout his long career and passed his down to his son while the younger Griffey was in his short stay in the minor leagues.
"The best players got the best equipment, and I got them because of my father," Griffey Jr. said.
He didn't need his dad's connections long, as Griffey Jr. played only 129 minor-league games before breaking into the big leagues at 19 and establishing himself as one of the game's all-time greats. A 13-time All-Star, member of the All-Century team and 1997 American League Most Valuable Player, Griffey ranks among baseball's all-time leaders in home runs (sixth), extra-base hits (15th with 1,545), RBIs (17th with 1,701) and grand slams (12th with 15).
"I knew he was going to be something special when he was 13 and I couldn't strike him out," Griffey Sr. said.
The younger Griffey said he was happy about the Reds naming Dusty Baker as the team's manager, but thinks the move will do more for the Reds than it will him.
"All he has to do is put my name in the lineup every day," Griffey said. "He's going to help this organization top to bottom. He's going to have an influence on the front office, the minor leagues and the entire Cincinnati Reds organization. It's going to be good for the city of Cincinnati to see what can happen with a big-name manager, something it hasn't had since Lou Piniella."
The elder Griffey was more excited about the move. Griffey Sr. played against Dusty Baker in the '70s and '80s and has been friends with him since their playing days.
Baker called Griffey Sr. during the interview process, but Griffey Sr. - who is now a special consultant to general manager Wayne Krivsky - didn't expect the Reds to hire Baker. Griffey Sr. gave Baker a rundown on the entire Reds organization.
When Baker was hired, Griffey Sr. was excited for the future of the organization.
"I'm excited with Dusty in charge," Griffey Sr. said. "He's going to get the most out of them. It's a great hire for the Cincinnati Reds."
Griffey Jr. had similar glowing words for the team's decision to pick up the option on fellow outfielder Adam Dunn.
"So many people complain about what he does wrong instead of what the man does right," Griffey said. "He goes out there every day and plays hard."
Louisville Slugger presented the award for the first time on Friday and plans to continue the award in the future. A possible future recipient of the award, Eddie Murray, was on hand, as well as Reds chief operating officer John Allen and director of media relations Rob Butcher.
When Griffey Jr. was asked what it meant to be considered a "living legend," his father answered before he could.
"It means he's old," Griffey Sr. said.
Griffey Jr. said he still wants to play, despite the fact he'll turn 38 this month.
"I'll keep playing as long as I'm having fun," Griffey said. "I still look forward to going to the ballpark every day and playing. I'm still having fun, it's not like work."