Ken Griffey Jr. in 1987

Soon after being drafted by the Mariners, Ken Griffey Jr. went to the Kingdome for his first pro batting practice. Bob Sherwin, writing in the Seattle Times of June 9, 1987, wrote:

The stare. The chuckle. The shake of the head.

They are all effects that Ken Griffey has on baseball people, all parts of the process of recognition.

After all, he may be the Seattle Mariners’ – and the nation’s – No. 1 draft choice and a superb prospect as well, but for now he is George Kenneth Griffey Jr. The name is one his father made respected, hitting .300 in 14 major-league seasons including a .320 average this spring with the Atlanta Braves.

“He stands up there a lot like his dad,” said Texas Ranger Tom Paciorek, one of a gathering to watch young Griffey take his first professional hacks in early batting practice yesterday. “He’s got a sweet swing.”

The swings produced some sweet results, albeit against the pitching of Coach Phil Roof. Griffey brought two of his father’s bats with him and broke both in the first two minutes. He also popped a number of pitches into the seats in right, one into the second deck.

Mostly, he showed good bat speed and a propensity to line drives.

“Wow!” said Mariner third-base coach Ozzie Virgil. “Let’s play him tonight.”

Bobby Tolan, Seattle coach and teammate of the senior Griffey when the father broke in in 1974.

“He looks like his old man as a kid,” he said, “but he’s bigger. Ken Sr. was just a little thing.”

The 17-year-old acknowledged the resemblances between himself and his father.

“But I think I look more like my mother,” Griffey Jr. said. “No, wait, let’s distribute it evenly so I won’t get into trouble.”

A week or so later, Alan Lee, also writing for the Seattle Times, on June 17, 1987, described Griffey’s first pro at-bats:

While the rest of his Bellingham Mariner teammates received a smattering of applause during pregame introductions last night, Griffey’s welcome was much different.

The standing-room-only crowd of 2,516 treated the Seattle Mariner No. 1 draft choice to a rousing ovation as he trotted out of the home dugout and into his much-anticipated debut.

“I wasn’t expecting all of that,” Griffey said with a smile afterward. “I was expecting maybe a few people (would cheer), but not that many. That helps knowing you have the fans behind you.”

The warm welcome proved to be one of the few highlights for the son of Atlanta Brave outfielder Ken Griffey as Bellingham fell to the Everett Giants 5-4 in the Northwest League opener for both teams.

Though he drew a walk in his first at-bat, Griffey failed to get the ball out of the infield after that – going 0 for 4 with a strikeout and three ground outs.

In each of his first four plate appearances, Bellingham had at least one runner in scoring position.

“I’m a little bit disappointed,” Griffey admitted.

“I was forcing my swing. I wish I would have gotten a hit, but those days will come.”

On June 17, Griffey hit his first professional homer. A 2003 Seattle Times article said:

Former Mariners superstar Ken Griffey Jr. got his first professional hit ā€” a 387-foot opposite-field home run ā€” at Memorial Stadium on June 17, 1987, in front of 3,122 fans. The 17-year-old phenom was playing for the Bellingham Mariners against Everett, which was a farm team for the San Francisco Giants at the time.

The spot where that historic blast cleared the fence is marked on the scoreboard in left field. The place where the ball is believed to have landed across the street is cast in bronze within a diamond-shaped plaque inlaid into the sidewalk.

And on July 3 it was on to his first game at the Kingdome, as the Seattle Times explained:

Ken Griffey Jr., the Mariners’ and baseball’s No. 1 selection in the June draft, did not have a successful debut last night in his first professional game in the Kingdome.

Griffey, playing center field for the Class A Northwest League Bellingham Mariners against the Everett Giants before the Mariners-Tigers game, was hitless in four at-bats. He popped out to center, reached first on an infield error and was thrown out trying for second base, and struck out twice.

His club, with a four-run second inning, won 6-3.

Published in: on December 6, 2008 at 3:34 am  Leave a Comment  
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