SEATTLE -- Ken Griffey Jr. has had too many great Seattle moments to count in the 21-year career that will eventually land him in the Hall of Fame.
And although he wouldn't admit it, the occurrence at home plate in Safeco Field at 3:52 p.m. PT on Tuesday had to rank high on the list.
Griffey, in his first game in Seattle in a Mariners uniform since Sept. 26, 1999, stepped to the plate against Angels starter Shane Loux and received a thunderous welcome-back ovation from the sellout crowd that might have exceeded decibel levels last reached during the team's spectacular 116-win season of 2001.
The man formerly known as The Kid stepped out of the batter's box and raised his helmet to the crowd, which roared even louder. A few pitches later, he stroked a single into right field that moved Ronny Cedeno from first to third, setting up the team's first run.
Back in the clubhouse after the game, while surrounded by at least 30 members of the media, Griffey tried to avoid the subject and concentrate more on the work of the 25-man team that brought the Mariners a 3-2 win in 10 innings, keeping them in first place in the American League West with a 6-2 record.
It didn't work for very long.
"It was just one of those things where you want to get the game going and things like that," Griffey said of the batting-helmet salute. "But you still want to show your appreciation by stepping back and acknowledging it."
But while Griffey didn't want to be effusive with emotion about the moment, his manager and teammates didn't have any problem admitting how touched they were by the proceedings.
"I had goose bumps," Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said. "It was pretty phenomenal. It was unbelievable. The reception he got was something. He knew he was going to get that kind of reception. We have been thinking about that moment since we got into Spring Training, what it was going to be like when we get back home. We expected the crowd to go crazy and they didn't disappoint us."
For a young player such as Cedeno, what he witnessed from first base was a connection and an appreciation of a career's work that he said he can only dream of at this point, which made it even more poignant.
"There was a lot of emotion in my heart when that happened," Cedeno said. "I got chills. For me, to be able to play with Ken Griffey Jr. is very special. I was 6 years old when he came into the Major Leagues, and he was amazing.
"He was the best center fielder; he hit the home runs; he stole bases; and now I get to play with him. That's what I was thinking of: how lucky I am to be here and be on this team."
Reliever David Aardsma, who pitched a scoreless eighth inning, agreed.
"I was waiting for it," Aardsma said. "I was excited. And not just because I'm his teammate or because it's Opening Day here or because the ballpark was packed. It's because I'm a fan. I'm as big of a baseball fan as anybody. And he's one of the greats of the game, a true Hall of Famer."
Griffey didn't personally impact the game much after the first-inning hit, although the four-pitch leadoff walk he drew from Loux with the game tied, 2-2, in the sixth inning did draw boos from the crowd.
Again, with another 'W' the books and victory music playing in the locker room, Griffey's 1-for-3 day and his .167 batting average so far this season were hardly the topic of discussion.
Even Ichiro, sitting out his final day on the disabled list, had something to say about the first-inning theatrics.
"The same sort of thing happened when he came here [in 2007] with the Reds," Ichiro said. "I definitely feel he's loved by the fans."
Griffey's tip of the hat returned the love, although once again, the franchise icon preferred to look at the 162-game picture in the wake of the win.
"Everyone put a lot into it," he said of the game. "It's more about the 25 guys in this locker room. Good things are happening. We have something special going on."
But Junior, he was asked over and over again, what about returning to the Mariners, coming back to Safeco Field after 10 years, and putting on No. 24 again? Is anything different?
"Everything's the exact same," he said. "I have the same locker. I had the same locker in Spring Training. I have the same parking spot."
And what about the car?
He smiled wryly.
"I have a better car."