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Old Kid still packing 'em in


Old Kid still packing 'em in
A father and son sat together on a city bus Tuesday, heading downtown to witness the return of a player great enough to span generations in Seattle.

"I watched The Kid when I was a kid," said Blake Bennett, 32.

On Tuesday, he bundled his 1-year-old son Layne in multiple layers of clothing, a Mariners blanket and the optimism and expectation of a new Baseball season and an old hero.

Ken Griffey Jr. has that kind of kind of power in Seattle, even now at age 39 with more sentimental than sabermetric value at this point in his career. Fans stood and cheered for nearly a minute when Griffey came to the plate in the first inning. Those cheers only amplified after he singled to right field, which set up the Mariners' first run and Seattle remembered how to cheer for Griffey as a Mariner.

"Seeing 24 in white is going to be awesome," Bennett said while riding the No. 21 bus toward SoDo.

Bennett's son, Layne, doesn't remember the first time he saw Griffey, but that's understandable seeing as he was less than a month old at the time. Layne was born earlier than expected, which is the only reason he was able to be at Safeco Field for a game when Griffey returned in June 2007.

Layne will turn 2 on May 31, and on Tuesday, he was wearing a Mariners jacket, Seahawks shoes and seated next to his father as they headed downtown to watch the season opener. Is he a Griffey fan?

"He hasn't told me he's not," Blake said.

Griffey is the prodigal son of Seattle sports. The national star who helped make the franchise relevant, the one whose smiling face is at the bottom of that dogpile that followed the playoff victory over the Yankees back in 1995. Even after he forced his way out of Seattle following the 1999 season, the city never really held it against him.

On Tuesday, he was welcomed back. A New Day, A New Way is the Mariners' marketing slogan for this season, but their home opener acknowledged the past, too. Not just Griffey, but Edward McMichael Seattle's "Tuba Man" was mentioned in a moment of silence before the game and acknowledged during the six-tuba rendition of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch.

Griffey is the one figure who unites Mariners fans. From Jason Williamson, who wore the No. 24 jersey he got back in the early 1990s to Tuesday's home opener, to Jacob Diamond, a junior at Western Washington, who wore the blue Mariners jersey that arrived in the mail about a week and a half ago.

Diamond identified the Mariners' 1995 run to the American League Championship Series as the high point of being a Seattle fan.

"I still haven't had anything else top it," Diamond said.

Tuesday's victory lacked that sort of importance. It was a well-played game in April in the midst of a surprisingly fast start by the Mariners . It's a new season, a blank slate that has begun with the return of one very familiar face.

And on Tuesday, a new generation of Mariners fans got a chance to see what it was like to cheer Griffey. A chance for a father like Blake Bennett to bring his son, Layne, to see Ken Griffey Jr.

"That's the cool thing about Baseball," Blake Bennett said. "It transcends generations."

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 16, 2009

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