CINCINNATI – Ken Griffey Jr. prefers to keep his feelings private, but the person probably closest to him, outside his family, thinks the Hall of Famer-elect will have a hard time doing that on the induction stage at Cooperstown.
“I am just so proud of him. He is an awesome husband and father and this is going to be a special day for him,” Brian Goldberg, Griffey's career-long agent, told WCPO Wednesday.
“He’s excited about what’s going to happen. He just doesn’t want too many people to see any of that outward excitement.”
Reds legends and Hall of Famers Johnny Bench and Barry Larkin were thrilled at the news that Griffey had received the highest voting percentage in history from the baseball writers. They congratulated Griffey in statements released by the Reds:
Bench: "It is such a well-deserved honor, for a young boy who hung around the locker room to become one of the most exciting players I ever saw. His grace and power were unmatched. He loved and respected the game. I don't think he ever wanted to be noticed. He just played the game, and maybe the Big Red Machine gave him a great education in how to play the game. He was blessed with a father who each day gave everything he had on the field. You learn and you learn. His mom, Birdie, was always smiling and supporting. We are proud to have Ken Griffey Jr. join us in the Hall of Fame."
Larkin: "Ken Griffey Jr. had the prettiest swing I have ever seen. Not only was the swing pretty but it was effective. He hit for average, for power, and he hit in situations. He played the game the right way offensively, he impacted the game defensively. Junior had great range, tremendous athleticism and a canon of an arm. And he played with a smile on his face. It was an honor to play alongside one of the greatest players in the history of the game."
Reds CEO Bob Castellini and Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred passed on their congratulations.
Castellini: "The Cincinnati Reds organization and our entire city congratulate Ken on his election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Over a wonderful career that began right here at Moeller High School, Junior built his legacy while playing for the Mariners and continued that remarkable career in Cincinnati and then with the Chicago White Sox. He represented himself, his family and those cities with the class and professionalism consistent with the ideals of Major League Baseball and the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, and he continues to serve all over the world as one of our game's greatest ambassadors. We are very proud that Ken's accomplishments have been validated at the highest level by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Reds fans are thrilled to see our hometown son earn a permanent place in Cooperstown alongside the other 43 players, managers and executives who spent all or parts of their careers in Cincinnati."
Manfred: "Ken Griffey Jr.’s swing, smile and immense talent in all facets of the game made him one of the most popular and respected players of all-time, a stature clearly evident in the results released today. His election to Cooperstown surely marks a great occasion not only in the Pacific Northwest and his hometown of Cincinnati, but also for an entire generation of fans. Major League Baseball is proud to congratulate Ken and his family on this well-deserved honor.”
Former Reds GM Jim Bowden proudly recalled trading for Griffey in 2000:
Bowden: "In my 15 years as a Major League Baseball general manager, my favorite moment was the day we traded for Ken Griffey Jr. and I was blessed to have the opportunity to walk to the podium to declare 'baseball is back in Cincinnati.' To be able to bring a future Hall of Famer, MVP, Gold Glove Silver Slugger superstar to the children of the greater Cincinnati area was an epic moment for me. Griffey's signature smile and his backwards hat were as special as his swing and bat speed. I used to make my sons watch batting practice with me, always reminding them this was the Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays of their generation. I told them they would never see another swing as special as his. The best part about Griffey was always what a special human being he was. I referred to him as the Eddie Murphy of baseball clubhouses, there was no one funnier. His heart and soul has always been about family, and he always treated my children like his own. On the field, if Griffey had been able to stay healthy and never had the problems with injuries to his knees, calves, ankles and feet, there is no doubt in my mind he would have been the only player to hit 800 home runs in the big leagues. Congratulations to a special player and more importantly a special person."
Griffey's legendary Moeller High coach, Mike Cameron, and his Reds teammates joined in.
Cameron: "Ken Griffey Jr. is the most naturally gifted baseball player I have ever seen on the high school level. There was never a question he had professional skills."
Aaron Boone, teammate from 2000-2003: "His talent made him a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but what I appreciate most about Ken is how much he wanted to just be one of the guys. I'm proud to call him a friend."
Sean Casey, Reds Hall of Famer and teammate from 2000-2005: "There are only certain times in your career where you can say you had the privilege of playing with a Hall of Famer. As I played next to Junior for 6 seasons, I knew we all were watching one of the greatest to ever play the game. I'm proud to say that while he was a great player, he is an even better friend."
Juan Castro, teammate from 2000-2004, 2006-2008: "Junior was one of those athletes born every 30 or 40 years with that special talent. Playing with and being around him was such a privilege because I got to know not only a great baseball player but a good teammate who was always so secure about what he was doing."
Adam Dunn, teammate from 2001-2008: "Ken made things that were not supposed to be easy, look easy. There are very few players who had more fun playing the game. He loved playing, and we loved watching him play. Ken is one of my favorite people, both as a professional and on a personal level. He not only is a hall of famer on the field, but he also is one off it."
Danny Graves, teammate from 2000-2005: "Junior was one of my favorite teammates. He had a great clubhouse presence and made the game look so easy. Watching his routes and the jumps on balls hit to him, it was like he knew where the batters were going to hit it before it was hit. He had the most accurate arm from any center fielder I've ever seen, always on the money. And, of course, he had the sweetest swing ever."
Scott Hatteberg, teammate from 2006-2008: "Junior was the single most gifted all-around talent I played with or against over the course of my career. The guy was a comet. That he did what he did with the grace of a ballerina and the enthusiasm of a backyard rugrat makes him even more of an anomaly. It was a true gift getting to play alongside him."
Austin Kearns, teammate from 2002-2006: "I'll always remember how much fun he had, whether it was on the field or in the clubhouse. There were plenty of times I would be in tears, in the middle of an inning, from laughing so hard. I remember him saying one time, 'If ya can't laugh on a baseball field, then where can ya?'"
Corky Miller, teammate from 2001-2004: "Ken was a special player who could do unreal things on and off the field. There was never a doubt watching him play that he was great, from when I was a kid watching him in A ball or playing on the same team in the Major Leagues. Ken was my brother's favorite player, and we always wondered if he was the same in person as he was on TV. After playing with him, I knew that was true. Junior was a good teammate and a great person."
David Weathers, teammate from 2005-2008: "Being a teammate of Junior, three things really stick out in my mind. First, he was a great teammate, always good to be around. He loved the game and played it like a kid. Two, he was a clean player from day one and had a Hall of Fame career with his natural talent. Third, he was tough. I saw him take bloody bandages off his leg from where he had torn a muscle three years earlier, and all of his teammates were amazed he played and never said a word. He also was unreal with my kid, rolling around wrestling on the floor. My son still remembers that."