Junior shares wisdom at Aaron Invitational

July 29th, 2021

During the short time that Ken Griffey Jr. and his dad shared a dugout, he learned more about hitting than ever before. He said that his father looked at him not as his son, but as a teammate during that time -- a distinction that became important for both Griffey’s career and his bond with his father.

In front of Ken Griffey Sr. and 250 baseball players at the Hank Aaron Invitational, Griffey told stories about playing with his father, what it takes to be a Major Leaguer and advice for the next generation.

During the Q&A, someone asked Griffey Jr. what it was like playing with his dad -- whether it was like playing catch in the backyard or if he forgot about all that when was on the field. The answer was simple; they were teammates. They went over scouting reports together -- the veteran giving advice, as he would to any younger player. Junior did say that the only time someone could tell they were related was when his father paid for his meals, joking that it is what dads do.

“I think that was the key, that he didn't come in, ‘Hey, you're going to do this, you're going to learn this, you're going to do it this way,’” said Griffey Jr. about his father. “It was like, you're my teammate. I'm your teammate.

“I did get to say something that most kids in this room have heard: ‘While you live in my house, you live by my rules.’ Well, he stayed at my house, so I got to say it to him … he moved out.”

Both Junior and Senior laughed, remembering the ending of one career, the beginning of another and the short time they were able to overlap.

Learning from his father was something Griffey Jr. did his whole life. However, it wasn’t until the two played together that he was able to see how his father worked.

Griffey Jr. pointed out the opportunity that the baseball players at the Hank Aaron Invitational -- the two-week event at the Jackie Robinson Training Complex in Vero Beach, Fla., aiming to identify and elevate high school-age talents from diverse backgrounds -- have. They have this same ability to watch and learn up close and personal from some of the greatest players and coaches in the sport.

“These guys up here, they're here to help,” said Griffey Jr. of the former players and coaches who volunteer at the Invitational. “They're not here to hurt you. They want you in these seats in 30 years, because they know they did something right. We want you in these seats. We also want you to be a big league baseball player. And we also want you to be good people. Because up here, these are all good people.”

The importance of being a good person and teammate was repeated over and over throughout the speech, by both Griffey Jr. and Griffey Sr., who would interject every now and then.

Griffey Sr. intervened the most, though, when someone asked about the time the father-son duo hit back-to-back home runs in 1990 -- joking that his son’s hit wasn’t that impressive because his homer had gone way farther.

“His went further, mine got out faster,” joked Griffey Jr. “But he failed to tell you what he said to me at home plate. As he shook my hand he goes, ‘That's how you do it, son.’ I'm looking at him like, ‘Really?’ So I had to do something. I hit it out and I couldn't wait to shake [his hand]. [I got back] and sat next to him and he made me shake all my teammates’ hands before I shook his hand.”

Watching these two all-time greats go back and forth, comparing home runs and defensive abilities, was the last lesson Griffey Jr. left for the Invitational athletes: If you want to be the best, surround yourself with the best.

“The knowledge that you received is the same knowledge that I got at this same age,” Griffey Jr. said. “It's the knowledge that I carried throughout my professional career. You're getting the same treatment that I got, so don't let it go to waste. The knowledge that these guys gave you this week is the same knowledge they gave me. You're not getting anything different, you're not getting a watered-down version. You're getting the truth.”