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Griffey hits 8th career opening-day HR


Griffey hits 8th career opening-day HR
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Wearing No. 24 on his back with Seattle stitched across his chest, Ken Griffey Jr. quickly got back into the swing of things with the Mariners.

Griffey went 1-for-3 with a solo home run and a walk in his first game with Seattle since 1999, helping the Mariners to a 6-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Monday night.

Just like old times, right Junior?

"No," he said before starting to crack up. "Did I say that with a straight face? It's just one of those things that was bound to happen sometime, I just made it a little early. But it was definitely fun. I enjoyed it running around the bases."

Griffey patrolled center field in Seattle for 11 brilliant seasons to start his career before being traded to his hometown Reds in 2000. He spent almost nine years in Cincinnati and finished last season with the Chicago White Sox.

The Kid returned to the Mariners in February for a one-year, $2 million deal, going back to the spot where it all began for him as a precocious 19-year-old who always had his hat turned backward and his smile turned on high.

He started in right field against Minnesota and also figures to see plenty of time at designated hitter this season. There is some gray creeping into the 39-year-old's hair and a few extra pounds on that wiry frame that used to gobble up flyballs in the Kingdome's vast expanse in center field.

But he showed on Monday night that there is still plenty of the old Junior to be seen.

"I've seen him in that uniform before and I've seen him do a lot of damage in that uniform," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said before the game. "Hopefully we can keep him in the ballpark tonight and not let him wake up the people in the upper deck. That's our goal tonight is keep Griffey in the ballpark."

No such luck.

Griffey got hold of a 2-2 hanging slider from Francisco Liriano leading off the fifth inning, sending the ball soaring over the baggie in right field for his eighth career opening-day homer, which ties Frank Robinson for the most all-time.

"It's quite an honor to be mentioned with him," Griffey said of Robinson, who is godfather to his youngest son Tevin. "I'll call him and get all over him. Or he'll call me."

It was his 612th career homer, which leads all active players. His 41 career homers against the Twins is his most against any team, despite spending nearly half his career in the National League. His 25 homers and 67 RBIs in the Metrodome are more than any other ballpark that he has not called home.

More than 48,000 Twins fans stood and saluted Griffey when he was introduced before the game started, recognizing the significance of his return to the Northwest.

Despite a 10-year absence, Griffey is still synonymous with this organization. Seattle is where he broke into the bigs in 1989, when Mariners ace Felix Hernandez was just 2 years old. It's where he matured into perhaps the league's best player in the 1990s.

"He's still my favorite player, to be honest with you," Twins left fielder Denard Span said. "He looks a little different in that Seattle uniform than I remember. He looked a little slim back in the day, but he still looks good in that Mariners uniform."

The Mariners don't expect him to duplicate what he did in his first stretch in Seattle - 10 straight All-Star games, six seasons with at least 40 home runs, including two straight 56-homer years.

But if the affable veteran can impart some of his professionalism and knowledge on a young team that splintered last season - and hit a few of those trademark long balls into the right field seats, their modest investment will be well worth it.

"If you don't enjoy baseball, you shouldn't play," Griffey said. "You get into what you do. There's a lot to enjoy here. I enjoy baseball, grew up in this game and can't think of anything else I could be doing where I have this much fun every day."


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 7, 2009

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