I was just a kid for The Kid; a toddler to be more exact. Born in 1995, I was only just too young to remember Ken Griffey Jr. the Seattle Mariner. Until the age of like 10, Griffey was the always-hurt Reds outfielder with the backwards cap and the way-too-long swing in Backyard Baseball 2001. I never watched him crash into walls at the Kingdome and I don’t remember getting one of his now-legendary 1989 rookie cards (Was it Fleer or Topps?).
This past weekend was super odd for me as a baseball fan. The baseball universe came together to collectively honor the career of a dude I can’t remember. For the generation slightly above me, Griffey is everything. He’s the reason many baseball fans ages 23-33 are baseball fans. But me, I just nodded along, pretending that 1-month-old me watched him score on Edgar’s double.
This is really the first year I felt left out. Maddux and Glavine and Thomas were stars, but they didn’t transcend the game like Griffey did. They didn’t transform the essence of the sport like #24 did in his prime. So at first I watched the commemorative videos and tribute articles and felt like a ticketless kid stuck outside the stadium while the game is going on, or a 20-year-old jamook stuck outside the bar while his 21-year-old friends rabblerouse.
But then, as I watched more and more people speak about the magic of Ken Griffey, I realized why the Hall of Fame induction ceremony and the Hall of Fame as a whole is important. It seems hokey and cheesy, but the Hall of Fame inductions do genuinely give younger dopes like me a chance to immerse myself in Griffey highlights until my computer overheats and explodes.
Even though I don’t actually remember any of the Griffey moments, all the Griffey reminiscing makes me feel like I was there. I’ll never totally be able to understand the impact Jr had on the Pacific Northwest, but the Mariners fans wonderfully clogging up my timeline have given me at least a sense of their never-ending affection for the guy.
The baseball world didn’t celebrate Ken Griffey Jr. this past weekend so 20-and-unders like me could relive his glory years. But finally getting to understand why he meant so much to so many people was a pretty awesome experience. Congrats, Jr.