Ken Griffey Jr.'s decision to retire on Wednesday caught almost everyone in baseball by surprise, judging by the fact his name was listed as a reserve on the Mariners' lineup card for their game against the Twins that night.
06/04/2010 12:22 PM ET
Junior's retirement stirs fellow players
Griffey made annoucement Wednesday after 21-year career
"While I feel I am still able to make a contribution on the field, and nobody in the Mariners front office has asked me to retire, I told the Mariners when I met with them before the 2009 season and was invited back, that I will never allow myself to become a distraction," Griffey's retirement statement said, as reported by the Seattle Times.
"I feel that without enough occasional starts to be sharper coming off the bench, my continued presence as a player would be an unfair distraction to my teammates, and their success as a team is what the ultimate goal should be."
Griffey, 40, is fifth on the all-time home run list with 630.
Junior was Span's hero as a young player: Denard Span was fully prepared to walk across the infield at Safeco Field in Seattle on Wednesday and ask for a pregame autograph from Ken Griffey Jr., only to find out that Griffey wasn't there. Instead, he'd announced his retirement.
"I'm still shocked," Span told MLB.com. "I came out here to ask him if he would autograph a jersey for me because he is and was -- now I can say was -- my favorite player growing up. But he's arguably one of the reasons why I play this game. I remember being younger and getting the opportunity to watch him in person when I was in middle school. He'll never be forgotten in this game."
Bruce puts Griffey in 'top five, top 10': Jay Bruce is among the many players who will miss Ken Griffey Jr., noting that he's been a fan of 'The Kid' as long as he can remember. In 2008, Bruce and Griffey were teammates with the Reds.
"He's been playing most of my life," Bruce told MLB.com. "Whew, it's surreal to hear him say he's done. To me, he's definitely one of the top five, top 10 players to ever step on the field."
Lincecum thankful for memories Griffey created: A native of suburban Seattle, Tim Lincecum grew up a big fan of Ken Griffey Jr. Lincecum was 11 years old when Griffey led the Mariners to the playoffs in 1995.
Lincecum told the San Francisco Chronicle that Griffey was "the epitome of Seattle baseball, pretty much, him and Randy [Johnson]. ... He was that new face. They called him 'The Kid' and all that stuff. He was making those spectacular catches.
"It seemed like he was having fun. It was almost like watching a different Pablo [Sandoval], just really enjoying himself out there."
Kearns all wet after trip to Junior's house: When Austin Kearns was a rookie, he had the "pleasure" of being a teammate of Ken Griffey Jr. One particular memory still lingers to this day.
"We had an off-day, and him and [Barry Larkin] took me and Adam [Dunn] to their house," Kearns told MLB.com. "They lived in the same neighborhood, and it was connected by a lake. I was told to get one of the jet skis and go to Junior's house and fill it up with gas.
"Well, little did I know it had maybe a drop of gas in it, so I was about halfway there and it just stopped. They left me out on the middle of the lake on this jet ski for about an hour, soaking wet. I get back, and I only had one change of clothes. All my dry clothes, they had put on. So I didn't have any change of clothes after sitting in the water for an hour."
Arroyo remembers Junior's passion: While discussing the retirement of Ken Griffey Jr., Bronson Arroyo talked about Griffey as a teammate.
"When you have guys that are superstars on the level that he was on, nobody really knows unless you play with them, what kind of guy he really is behind the scenes," Arroyo told MLB.com. "Griff was happy-go-lucky every day. Everybody enjoyed being around him all the time.
"I enjoyed him because he didn't always just talk about baseball. He'd talk about flying his plane or whatever, and you'd just see he was kind of a kid. He was always enthusiastic about the things he was passionate about. That's the first and foremost thing I will remember about him."
Morneau gained appreciation for Griffey after talk: Justin Morneau recalled a talk with Ken Griffey Jr. during Spring Training a few years back.
"He was just joking around with me," Morneau told MLB.com. "It was a very happy moment for me. Sometimes you can get there and the guys you look up to can let you down a bit. But he was one of those guys who treated me like I had been in the league for 10 years. Just had a conversation with me, and I thought that was pretty cool."
Griffey provided Ross with early laughs: Cody Ross grew up a Ken Griffey Jr. fan and was briefly teammates with him on the Reds in 2006.
"He was a stand-up guy, one of the nicest teammates I've ever been around," Ross told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "And he didn't have to be -- because he was Ken Griffey Jr."
Their introduction went like this: "He came up to me and said, 'Congratulations.' And he looked down at me and goes, 'Man, you look a lot bigger on TV.' Right there he broke the ice."
Crosby starts trend with mustache: In order to try to bring his Pittsburgh teammates together and add a little more fun to the grind, Bobby Crosby came up with the idea of team mustaches.
"I don't think we're the best looking team anymore, but we're having fun," Crosby told MLB.com. "I think if you would go to most teams and say, 'Hey, we're going to grow mustaches,' they would turn it down. But everyone was pretty cool with it and wanted to run with it and see where it goes. As long as it's working and we're winning, we're going to keep it."
Overbay credits footwork for surge: Lyle Overbay has been studying video of his at-bats from 2006, when he hit .312 with 46 doubles, 22 home runs and 92 RBIs. Entering Thursday's game, he was 10-for-18 in his last five games and hitting line drive after line drive.
"It's about feeling comfortable, and I'm seeing the ball better," Overbay told the Toronto Sun. "The last couple of days I've been able to put a good swing on it. I haven't felt comfortable all year until these last three days."
Smoak riding hot streak: After going 1-for-3 on Thursday with an RBI, rookie Justin Smoak has five hits in his last 14 at-bats (.357) with two runs scored, one double, one home run and three RBIs for the Rangers. Smoak has also walked six times in his past five games and struck out only four times.
Smoak said he regrouped after Friday's game and stopped pressing.
"When you get all geared up at the plate, trying to do too much, you're swinging at pitches you shouldn't swing at and taking pitches you shouldn't take," he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "The biggest key, to relax at the plate and let the ball come to you. Don't try to go out and get it."
Cano continues to impress at plate: Robinson Cano entered the weekend with a 17-game hitting streak and was hitting .373 with a team-high 12 home runs and 43 RBIs.
"He's going to win a couple of batting titles. I just hope he continues what he started," teammate Jorge Posada told the New York Post of Cano. "He's seeing everything good. He feels good at the plate. I bet it looks like a big softball when the ball is thrown every time it gets to the plate."
Abreu puts team first with patience at plate: Angels manager Mike Scioscia thinks Bobby Abreu's patience at the plate -- a benefit for the team -- has cost him hundreds of hits in his career.
"If he didn't work counts, and he swung at more pitches, he'd be near 3,000 hits," Scioscia told the Los Angeles Times. "He could easily have 30 to 40 more hits a year if he didn't walk 100 times.
"But that's how he plays. He plays to win. I hope people will appreciate that more when they start to consider him for the Hall of Fame. He's been a terrific player for a long time."
-- Red Line Editorial