Orlando resident and future Baseball Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., was honored as the 12th recipient of the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award on Sunday night prior to Game 4 of the World Series in Arlington, Texas.
Griffey Jr., who lives in Windermere with wife Melissa and his three children -- Trey, Taryn and Tevin -- retired last season after stints with Seattle, Cincinnati and the Chicago White Sox during 22 years in the major leagues.
There isn't another baseball star rising in the Griffey household, yet. Trey is a senior college football prospect at Dr. Phillips High, which is where Taryn is one of the top sophomore high school basketball players in the country. Meanwhile, nine-year-old Tevin plays both football and baseball.
After a career chock full of accolades and historical measurables on the basball field, the 13-time all-star selection was quite surprised at the first mention of his name and the award by baseball commissioner Bud Selig.
"It's very humbling," Griffey said via cell phone as he prepared to board his private plane -- which he pilots -- for the trip back to Orlando from Dallas-Fort Worth. "One of the things I said to Bud when he told me was, 'Are you sure,' and he said yes."
The award, which was created in 1998 to recognize achievements and contributions of historical significance, is not given every year. The last recipient, fittingly for Griffey, was Rachel Robinson, who was honored in 2007 for continuing the legacy of her late husband, Jackie Robinson, and for her service to Major League Baseball.
“The Kid,” as he has been called, grew up in the cluhouse for whatever team his dad Ken Griffey Sr. happened to be playing. The most significant time was spent with the Cincinnati Reds when his dad was part of the Big Red Machine in the early 70s.
The Reds dominated during that stretch, winning five National League West titles, four NL pennants and two World Series crowns. Ken Griffey Sr. was a big part, with teammates like Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, and on and on.
Junior was both a football and baseball star at Cincinnati's Moeller High. A signature on an NCAA National Letter of Intent during his senior year would have significantly changed history, especially in a baseball sense.
Seattle made him the No. 1 pick and the rest is why Griffey was holding the Commissioner's Award on Sunday night.
"The hands of a lot of people hold part of that trophy other than mine," Griffey Jr. said. "My teammates, who helped make me a better player, my family, who helped make me a better person ... it's not like I went out and did it all by myself. There have been quite a few other people who were a part of all that ... also the Seattle Mariners, for giving me the opportunity to play and fulfull my dream."
He helped guide the Mariners to the franchise's first two postseason berths in 1995 and 1997, and was the youngest member of Major League Baseball’s All-Century Team, which was unveiled in 1999.
His physical accomplishments will be bettered only by few. With 630 career home runs, the unanimous 1997 American League Most Valuable Player (.304, 56 HR, 147 RBI, 125 R) currently ranks fifth on the all-time list.
Also one of the most popular players of his generation, the 10-time Gold Glove-winning center fielder concluded his career in 2010 with 50,044,176 All-Star votes from fans, the most of any player in the history of Major League Baseball, and his single-season record for most All-Star votes stood from 1994 until 2011.
It was Griffey's idea to wear No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day in 2007, and commissioner Selig expanded on it to allow all on-field personnel throughout Major League Baseball to wear Robinson’s number as part of the festivities, a tradition that has continued annually since then.
Being a part of anything associated with Jackie Robinson is something by which Griffey Jr.,will always be moved.
"Especially because of the sacrifices he made to allow me and others like me to play baseball," Griffey Jr., said.
Commissioner Selig released a statement: “Ken Griffey Jr. was a gifted all-around player with a perfect swing, a brilliant glove and a childlike joy for the game. From the time he was just 19, Ken represented Major League Baseball with excellence and grace, and he was one of our sport’s greatest ambassadors not only in Seattle and Cincinnati, but also around the world. I am most appreciative for all of Ken’s contributions to our national pastime.”Chris Hays can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.