I can’t attest to liking sports all of my life. I’m not one of those people who grew up watching a sport with their family every night or every weekend. Much of my current interest in sports was self-developed more recently, not based on what my family taught me when I was young. Sure, my dad would watch football or baseball while I was in the room. But there was never a need to learn about sports. Frankly, in my mind, sports were pretty stupid, and I had better things to do.
But there were two people who sparked at least the slightest interest in sports. The first was David Robinson, whom I only liked because he was on Sesame Street one time.
The other was Ken Griffey, Jr.
I’m not sure why I liked him. It might have been that smile and his charisma. It might have been how he seemed to always be the hero. It also more than likely could have been that he was the only player whose name I knew. Either way, I liked him enough to have him on my cake on my fifth birthday. I wasn’t a Mariners fan; I was a Ken Griffey, Jr. fan. He made me happy.
That was what he did. Griffey made people happy. Even the people who didn’t like baseball liked him.
And then Griffey went to Cincinnati, and baseball went back to being stupid.
To be fair, I guess I didn’t hate baseball entirely. I kind of-sort of liked Bret Boone. I had a poster of the 2001 team on my bedroom wall. But it was more of a passive appreciation for the team. I was never actively rooting for them.
Sports didn’t really have a significant part in my life until about the sixth grade, I’d say. I started watching the Sonics and absolutely fell in love with the team. We all know how that turned out, of course. (Leave it to me to be late to the party.) But the sport of basketball stuck with me. Baseball, however, still didn’t really strike my fancy.
But when Griffey returned to Seattle, that’s about the time I started really actively watching the Mariners. I know it wasn’t the most pleasant of stints, but he was what sort of drew me back into baseball. Just his presence was enough to make me start watching again.
And now, I’m attached. I’m attached to the Mariners, and I’m attached to baseball. Griffey, the new Mariners Hall-of-Famer, got me watching. He took me from baseball skepticism to baseball obsession.
It was one player who made the difference.