CHICAGO -- Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. flew from his home in Florida to watch his son, Trey, play wide receiver for the University of Arizona in its home game Saturday night against Stanford.On the way, he had even more kids to visit.Griffey made a stop in Chicago along
CHICAGO -- Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. flew from his home in Florida to watch his son, Trey, play wide receiver for the University of Arizona in its home game Saturday night against Stanford.
On the way, he had even more kids to visit.
Griffey made a stop in Chicago along the way to meet with young children and teens as one of the many dignitaries at Major League Baseball's Play Ball event at Kerry Wood Cubs Field, hours before the Indians won Game 4 of the World Series, 7-2, to take a 3-1 lead in the Fall Classic. Griffey gave them advice on why to play the sport, how to make the right decisions, working hard for what you want and why to "never be a what-if." He also discussed the life he led growing up as the son of a Major Leaguer and the importance of surrounding yourself with driven people.
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"For me, going back to why I want to do this and why it's important, you guys are the next generation of ballplayers that we need," Griffey told them. "One day if one of you guys make it, and you're on TV, we're going to remember that. 'Hey, I remember him being here.' We'll be old in a barbershop just yelling, because that's the only time that men can argue and then walk out the door and be like, 'OK, see you all later.'"
The assembled youth hung on every word this legend had to tell them. He made them laugh, he made them smile, he made them think, he made them confident about themselves. Commissioner Rob Manfred said at the event that participation by current and former Major Leaguers is a key part of the Play Ball initiative succeeding, and 630 home runs can grab your attention real fast.
"You're trying to get kids to play baseball," Griffey said in an interview before addressing the kids. "The hardest thing is, you see other sports and how passionate the kids are about their sports, it's about time we take that back. For me growing up, Saturday or Sunday, it was nothing but baseball. All my friends wanted to play baseball. Football season came around, it was, 'Yeah, we'll play,' but as long as we could go out there and swing a bat, then we play baseball.
"This is baseball's way of giving back and showing children that this game is fun. There is a lot of passion, and there are a lot of guys who want to see this succeed, and we want younger generations to come out and watch us play and enjoy the game like we used to."
Griffey said he was glad to see MLB -- in conjunction with USA Baseball and supported by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and so many other entities -- take this on wholeheartedly.
"We're losing a lot of kids to other things, mainly sitting at the house and not doing anything," Griffey said. "We want kids to be active. When you're involved in a team sport, as you get older, you understand what it's like to be on a team in the workforce. Those types of intangibles are important, being able to adapt to good and bad and come out and survive."
Griffey told the youngsters that he was "no different than you guys," but just happened to have a father who played in the Majors and got to be around the game. He also told them what a challenge it was, noting that his father could be demanding at times ... and then a great future Mariners teammate. Griffey tries to apply what he has learned as a father now.
"Never be a what-if," Griffey told the kids. "A what-if is a person 20 years from now who says, 'What if I would have worked hard? What if I would have done this? What if I would have done that?' You never want to be that. So make sure that you do the things that it takes you to get to that next level."
Trey Griffey is trying to get to that next level. He was drafted in the 24th round by Griffey's longtime Mariners organization in June, but his aspirations are still football. According to Dad, he just needs some balls thrown his way.
"We're on our fifth quarterback this year," Ken Griffey said. "MCL, concussion, walk-on ... they're struggling. And if you're a wide receiver, you're not getting anything."
Don't even ask Griffey about the excitement over the Cubs, because he still cherishes his framed White Sox jersey he wore as a South Sider. He does, however, have thoughts on this World Series, because for a guy who usually doesn't even watch the Fall Classic, he has been tuning in this time.
"The starting pitching is always going to be the strong point on both teams," Griffey said. "I think it's going to come down to middle relief in the bullpen. The stoppers are going to be the stoppers, and I think it's the one team that gets that break that wins. That's how this series is shaping up."
It has been a huge year for Griffey, of course, as a 2016 Hall of Fame inductee along with Mike Piazza. Although he looks forward to next year and just showing up to Cooperstown for Induction Weekend, playing golf and appearing on stage, Griffey jokes that it was easier before his actual induction.
"I liked the inductee part better than the actual Hall of Fame part," he said. "See, as the inductee, when I asked my wife something, it was whatever the inductee wanted. Now once I became a Hall of Famer, nothing, you're back to normal."
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog.