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Griffey gives back by helping younger players

Elite Development campers mine minds of former players, coaches
MLB.com

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- It's been seven years since he last played, but "The Kid's" grin remains omnipresent.

On the first full day of the Elite Development Invitational's second week, Ken Griffey Jr. arrived in Dodgertown to provide a motivational speech for the young athletes. After speaking to the 12- to 15-year-old age group Tuesday, the 2016 Hall of Fame inductee returned to Historic Dodgertown to chat with high school freshmen, sophomores and juniors.

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- It's been seven years since he last played, but "The Kid's" grin remains omnipresent.

On the first full day of the Elite Development Invitational's second week, Ken Griffey Jr. arrived in Dodgertown to provide a motivational speech for the young athletes. After speaking to the 12- to 15-year-old age group Tuesday, the 2016 Hall of Fame inductee returned to Historic Dodgertown to chat with high school freshmen, sophomores and juniors.

"We talked about family and sharing, and being part of a special group," Griffey told players. "You guys are part of a special group."

Introduced by fellow outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds and receiving nearly a 45-second standing ovation, Griffey answered questions about everything from slumps -- there are no slumps, the 13-time All-Star emphasized -- to how he got his trademark nickname "The Kid."

And to the delight of digital baseball lovers everywhere, Griffey discussed his experience with video games. Griffey specifically honed in on two video games he worked closely with: "Ken Griffey Presents Major League Baseball" and "MLB The Show 17."

"I didn't know how much work it was going to be," Griffey said of working on the former. "I was in that bodysuit for four days in San Diego, and I was miserable. Every movement … I had to do both right-handed and left."

But for most of the 131 young athletes in the room, Griffey's stories about going from the son of a Major Leaguer to a Hall of Famer were more compelling than hitting home runs into a virtual Yankee Stadium.

"It was humbling knowing he's been through the same steps we're going through right now," California infielder Joaquin Hines said. "He learned as he went on and didn't dwell on the past -- he was always focused on the future and the present. I think that's the best thing you can know."

Griffey's highlights -- 630 career home runs, 2,781 hits and falling three votes shy of becoming the first unanimous Hall of Famer -- are ones etched into the mind of every baseball fan. Named to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999, even the youngest of attending players are able to remember Griffey's majestic home runs with the Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox.

Video: Griffey Jr. honored by Hall of Fame induction

And while Griffey's prime may have been behind him when these players were taking their first swings, his resume has still helped shape many of their profiles.

"I honestly didn't think [Griffey talking to us] was happening because I've modeled my swing after Ken Griffey Jr.," Orlando catcher Charles Kwarteng said. "He's the reason I hit left-handed -- I was born right-handed, but in the backyard when I was playing, I wanted to be Ken Griffey Jr."

Kwarteng and the other players will learn from more than 30 former players and coaches at the camp.

"The advice these guys are gonna get is going to be on-the-field advice, and they'll grow to become responsible young men," Griffey said. "The guys that are here in this building want to give back. We don't do this for money -- we do this for the game of baseball."

When those youngsters check their phones Friday night and are bombarded with text messages and emails about Griffey's appearance, some will still react with that sense of shock and awe.

Others, in an attempt to have as much fun as "The Kid" did, may have different plans.

"I'll tell them he told us secrets and knowledge, and put that to my game," Illinois catcher Julio Cajigas said.

Jake Elman is a contributor to MLB.com based in Vero Beach, Fla.

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