Ken Griffey Jr. Still has game

Words: John Gaudiosi
Photography: Courtesy of Sony PlayStation

Legendary baseball player Ken Griffey Jr. talks about his love of baseball and video games.

Back in the day, Ken Griffey Jr. ruled the Majors. The slugger was so popular in the ‘90s that Nintendo and Sega fought over the ability to sign him to an exclusive video game franchise. Nintendo ultimately won, and they had the upper hand given the game giant’s ownership stake in Griffey’s Seattle Mariners.

The Hall of Famer continues to command respect with baseball fans. In fact, long after “The Kid” retired in 2010 after 21+ years in the Bigs, he’s still a draw. That’s why Sony enlisted “Jr” to serve as the cover athlete for its new MLB The Show 17, which includes a cool one-button Retro mode that pays homage to the classic Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball games.

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Griffey, who ended his career with 630 home runs, fifth-highest in MLB history, 10 Gold Gloves, and one Most Valuable Player Award on his love of baseball and video games.

baseball, sports, mvp

© Keith Allison/Flickr

THE RED BULLETIN: What’s the most memorable moment of your Hall of Fame baseball career?

KEN GRIFFEY JR.: Being able to play with my dad.

How did you deal with the pressures early on of following in your dad’s footsteps?

It wasn’t all pressure. My dad didn’t force us to play. My brother played college football, so he didn’t force us to play baseball. He’d tell us, “Go out there and do the best you can and whatever you’re successful in I’ll be supportive of.” So it didn’t matter what we did. It was, “Hey, I’m going to go out there and support my kids.”

Can you talk about how you worked to perfect your swing; which is something that even to this day is revered by a lot of people.

Practice, practice, practice. How I explained it to my friends’ kids who are the same age as my youngest, 14/15, is when I walk down the hall I still think about swinging. How many times do you see a basketball player do a move when nobody’s there? He’s just working on stuff. And baseball is the same thing.

Do you feel there are things kids can learn when they’re not on the field through watching the pros play in a video game from swinging?

Yeah, there are things like how to get a correct lead, how to swing the bat, what’s it like for a pick-off move. You can learn all kinds of stuff without actually being outside doing it. Kids nowadays are more visual learners, so they’re going to pick up things from watching it. I mean you look at the NBA and football, a lot of these moves that you see now are done in video games, the big juke moves. They wouldn’t have them in the game if they couldn’t do it.

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Back when you had your own game franchise for Nintendo, it was still early on in the game industry. How are you seeing gaming influence the younger generation that is coming up through the Mariners and other farm systems?

They’ll be able to look at what these guys have. So if a pitcher has a split-finger fastball or a curveball or a breaking ball, they’ll be able to look at it and see how fast and hard he throws it. You’re going to get a pretty good indication of how this guy throws.

© Sony PlayStation

How do you think baseball has evolved since you left the game?

When I started, you had a trainer and an assistant trainer. Now you have a trainer, an assistant trainer, a strength conditioning coach, nutritionist, therapist. The organizations are pretty much keeping these guys at 100% for a longer period of time.

How did it feel when your son was drafted by the Mariners last year?

They actually called me before and asked me right after high school and I didn’t want to put any added pressure on him, and I was like “Nah.” And they asked me again last year and he’s 22, so I said “Go ahead.” And it was a great surprise and honor for him. Right now he’s focusing on football and we’ll see what happens from there. 

Maybe one day all three of you guys can be in the same MLB video game.

Yeah, that might work.

What felt better: watching your dad hit a homerun, hitting one yourself or seeing your son hit a homer?

Probably my son because I watched my dad hit home runs all my life, and I hit a lot of them, but to see the younger generation do it, it’s definitely special. 

© YouTube/GameSpot Trailers

What’s it like being able to impart your wisdom on the younger generation of players?

My main concern, like everybody, is trying to get these guys to the big leagues so they can be on the game. That’s one of the great things about professional sports is when you get to the big leagues or NBA or NFL, you’re on the game, and you can strive for that.

Where does being on the cover of Sony’s MLB 17 today fit with all of your gaming accomplishments from your Nintendo days?

Sony is a top-tier company, not only in gaming but in the other things that they do with electronics and entertainment. They want to be the best at everything, and why not align yourself with the best?

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