There are a few things I knew for a fact when I was a kid. Parents never understood, summer was too short, and center fielders always made spectacular catches. Especially that last one. That one I knew beyond a doubt.
Try telling any kid growing up in Seattle in the 90’s that center fielders didn’t always make acrobatic plays in the outfield. You’d be mocked and shunned for such a ridiculous statement.
Alas, adulthood has a way of erasing the certainties of childhood.
Not all center fielders make diving catches, it turns out, and I realized how spoiled I’d been watching Ken Griffey Jr. turn the Kingdome’s center field into his own personal playground all those years. It’s almost crazy to think that I watched him his entire career and didn’t realize just how good he was until he became a Cincinnati Red.
My eyes drank in an enormous amount of baseball, particularly in my teen years. It should have been obvious that he was leagues ahead of every other outfielder. But I still practiced diving catches with a tennis ball in the backyard because that’s what center fielders did.
I’m not a chick who ever dug the long ball. Diving, leaping plays in the outfield have always been more my speed. As such, you would think the tape loop of Junior’s catches would be omnipresent in my mind when I think about him. Instead, his attitude is what I think of first.
Like the time the Kingdome stopped the fireworks after a home run because it bothered him.
Or, how Safeco Field had a space in the locker room designed specifically for his chair.
Or, calling himself the Rodney Dangerfield of baseball.
When he kept his mouth shut I adored him on the baseball field. When he started complaining, I’d just roll my eyes. Everyone bowed and kissed the ground he walked on, but he still didn’t get enough respect? Get over yourself, dude.
Twitter is practically erupting with collective genuflection because he’s being inducted into the Mariner’s Hall of Fame tomorrow. It’s figuratively nauseating. And I think to myself, “If you can’t say something nice…”
I suppose if anyone is entitled to be entitled, it’s Ken Griffey Jr. I’m never going to feel all-encompassing Griffey love, but I can remember the good times as well as anyone.
Especially those catches. Show me a highlight reel and I’ll be Griffey giddy.
Just leave out the one with the broken wrist in 1995. I still cringe every time I see it.