Griffey turns Brewers players into wide-eyed fans
SEATTLE -- The Brewers transformed from Major Leaguers into wide-eyed fans on Friday when Ken Griffey Jr. graced the visitors' clubhouse, a guest of Brewers media relations director and former Reds colleague Mike Vassallo. On Saturday, those same players lined the dugout to see Griffey inducted to the Mariners Hall of Fame.
Why was everybody so giddy for this particular player?
"Because it's Griffey," Brewers reliever Brandon Kintzler said.
Kintzler was among a slew of Brewers who got Griffey's autograph, many shelling out $200 for jerseys from the Mariners' ballpark store ahead of the informal visit.
When a reporter remarked to outfielder Caleb Gindl that all of the Brewers' left-handed hitters might try to mimic Griffey's swing after meeting the man, Gindl quipped, "I wish I could swing like that."
He was a fan growing up.
"I had Griffey posters plastered all over my room," Gindl said.
Second baseman Scooter Gennett spent a chunk of his childhood in Cincinnati, where Griffey played from 2000-08. Gennett was 10 when he first met Griffey at a baseball camp, and later played for a pair of touring teams that Griffey once graced.
"I don't want to say he changed the game, but he gave younger guys hope," Gennett said. "He broke into the league at 19 and had so much success as a young person. He was an example that if you were good enough and worked hard enough, you could make it at any age. For me, that was so special.
"It was how he played the game, too. Everything he did was impressive. I would say he gave the game something we'd never seen before."
Gennett, incidentally, was yet to be born when Griffey made his Major League debut for the Mariners in 1989. Neither was starting Brewers shortstop Jean Segura.
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was asked whether he considered allowing players to wear backward caps in batting practice in homage to Griffey.
"If they can hit like him, they can do whatever they want," Roenicke said.