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Peers share tales from Griffey's HOF career

Current, former players fond of Junior's contributions to game
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- There is a reason Ken Griffey Jr. was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame with the highest percentage of votes in the history of the Hall. Griffey played 13 seasons in Seattle and nine in Cincinnati, as well as a couple months with the White Sox, but his popularity far transcended those cities, as an entire generation of fans and players grew up watching and emulating "The Kid."

With help from MLB.com writers around the league, here's a sampling of the impact of Griffey as he prepares for Sunday's induction, which will be broadcast live on MLB Network and MLB.com at 10:30 a.m. PT, with coverage beginning at 8 a.m.:

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- There is a reason Ken Griffey Jr. was elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame with the highest percentage of votes in the history of the Hall. Griffey played 13 seasons in Seattle and nine in Cincinnati, as well as a couple months with the White Sox, but his popularity far transcended those cities, as an entire generation of fans and players grew up watching and emulating "The Kid."

With help from MLB.com writers around the league, here's a sampling of the impact of Griffey as he prepares for Sunday's induction, which will be broadcast live on MLB Network and MLB.com at 10:30 a.m. PT, with coverage beginning at 8 a.m.:

Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez
"A lot of my game has to do because of Griffey. I tried to do everything he did as a player when I was little. I guess that put me in the right spot. He's a big reason my swing is the way it is, because I tried to emulate him. Griffey was the man. I remember telling my mom every night when they showed the Mariners' games, I didn't really care about the games, I told her just to tell me when Griffey was up to the plate, because I wanted to watch him hit.

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"My first year in the big leagues, he was in the National League and I was in the American League, and I thought I might never have a chance to play against him. Next thing I know, he gets traded by the Reds to the White Sox and I look at the schedule and, 'Oh, Griffey is coming in a couple weeks.' So I was dreaming about it every night. 'Wow, I'm going to play against my favorite baseball player,' just counting the days, like a little kid.

"Finally, that day I got to the ballpark really early, I went outside to see if he was doing something, but nothing. Then I was just hitting regular BP, kind of forgetting about it, because I'm focused on my swing and getting ready for the game, and Frank Thomas was talking behind the cage with somebody and I'm not paying attention. But when I walked out of the cage, it was Griffey. I stood there like a little kid, not knowing what to say.

"Frank introduced me and he shook my hand, and I was just in shock. After that, it was all about fun, and now we live like five minutes away from each other. We do trips together and play golf together. It was something I never thought was going to happen.

"I'm just really happy he's going to the Hall of Fame. It's a place he deserves to be."

Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer
"He was like the Michael Jordan of baseball when I was growing up. He had the video games. I never used to use batting gloves when I was growing up, but my coach bought me some Ken Griffey Jr. batting gloves and that's the only reason I tried them out. He was just super cool."

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Cubs catcher David Ross
"The nickname 'The Kid' is the truth, because he always had fun playing. He had that infectious smile and enjoyed trying to hit homers and rob homers. I caught him at the back end of his career, but he was a great player and did some special things. He had one of the prettiest swings you'll ever see from a left-handed hitter."

Reds outfielder Jay Bruce, who played briefly alongside Griffey in 2008
"When I was able to be there for home run No. 600, that was super, super special. That's some of the most rare history that you'll ever be there for. I just remember a few plays he made in right field, too. Everybody knows his hitting prowess and his fielding prowess. I got to see some plays, even though it was in what some would consider the twilight of his career, you could really see where it came from. It was there. Even though it wasn't there in youth, it was there in skill. It was really cool to watch."

Video: Griffey Jr. discusses his Hall of Fame induction

Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison
"For one, just the swing, man. One of the prettiest swings you'll ever see. Growing up, every kid -- right-handed, left-handed, didn't matter -- you tried to do his batting stance and his finish and just the way he played the game."

White Sox manager Robin Ventura, who came into the Majors the same year as Griffey in 1989
"Just a great player. He's the class of the class of some of the best players that ever played the game, whether any era or anything like that."

Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre
"He was unbelievable in every sense. He changed the game offensively, defensively, running the bases. Like they called him, 'The Natural.' Sweet swing, explosive defensively, great arm. I was a big fan. It was a privilege to watch him play."

Pete Rose, MLB's all-time hit king
"He's one of the top 10 players ever. Statistic-wise, ability-wise, great defensive player, great offensive player. He would have been a great player in the middle of the lineup for the Big Red Machine."

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Cubs manager Joe Maddon
"The first time I saw him play was in [Class A ball in] Bellingham, Wash. Bellingham is not a big ballpark, but it's really hard to hit the ball out. I saw him rifle something out to right field. You could see he was special, he was different. You could see the talent level was enormous.

"He was the first guy I talked [Angels manager Terry Collins] into shifting -- it was '97 probably. I remember sitting in the office and T.C. was in there with Sparky [Anderson]. I walked in with the chart, and said, 'Would you mind if we tried this with this guy tonight, Griffey?' and he said, 'Sure.' He attempted to bunt one time unsuccessfully. Those are the two moments -- the homer in Bellingham and the time we shifted him. That emboldened me to do that more defensively."

Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano
"He's a legend. One of the best in the game. One of the best center fielders, one of the best hitters, he could run and do everything. One of the best things I ever saw was he and his dad hitting the back-to-back homers. That was special."

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Brewers hitting coach Darnell Coles, who played with Griffey for two years in Seattle
"He knew what he represented as far as the way his dad played, and where he came from meant a great deal. He meant so much to two cities. But within all of that, he was the most generous person you were ever going to meet. I talked to him one Christmas, just catching up. I was coaching a high school team at the time, Countryside High School in Clearwater, Fla., and Griffey learns this and says, 'Do me a favor. I want you to send me the sizes of everybody there. Coaches, players, everybody.'

"He outfitted everybody. He sent 40 pairs of shoes; practice shoes and game shoes. He sent batting gloves. He set up that whole team. And he said, 'As long as you're there, if you ever want or need anything, ask.' Not that I had ever asked in the first place. It was just the way he was.

"There was not a thing he did in the game of baseball that surprised me. He was just that good, and the end result is being inducted to the Hall of Fame. I won't be able to get there, but I wish I was, because he's special. I played with Barry Bonds and some other great players, but when you're talking about the total package, I don't think there's any doubt that Griffey is the best player I've ever seen."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast.

Seattle Mariners, Adrian Beltre, Carlos Gonzalez, Josh Harrison, Eric Hosmer