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Mariners Hire Ken Griffey Jr. as Consultant

Feb 15, 2011 – 12:53 PM
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John Hickey

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Ken Griffey Jr.PEORIA, Ariz. -- Ken Griffey Jr., the longtime face of the Seattle Mariners organization who left the team to retire last year when his playing time dwindled, is returning to the Mariners as a special consultant to the franchise.

The announcement was made by club president Chuck Armstrong, one of the few club employees who was already on board when Griffey came up in 1989 as a then-19-year-old to turn around what had been one of the saddest organizations in Major League Baseball.

Griffey forced a trade in Feb. 2000, to the Cincinnati Reds, and he played there for almost a decade before returning to Seattle in 2009, where he had one decent year before things fell apart in 2010.

With Griffey unproductive offensively for the first time in his life in 2010, then-manager Don Wakamatsu used him less and less, and Griffey ultimately opted to leave on June 2, driving home to Florida after deciding to retire.

There were bad feelings between Griffey and Wakamatsu, but Wakamatsu was fired at the end of what turned out to be a 101-loss season, and that made it easier for Griffey and the club that originally drafted him to strike a deal to start up the All-Star outfielder's post-retirement baseball career.

"I don't know that anything has changed," Armstrong said, "but time has elapsed. We have talked about how he left and why he left, and we'll leave it to him to address that.''

Armstrong and Griffey, who kept in contact throughout Junior's days in Cincinnati and, briefly, with the Chicago White Sox, said Tuesday that when Griffey first talked about returning to Seattle in 2009, this kind of post-playing days gig was something Griffey found intriguing.

"He is our iconic player,'' Armstrong said. "We are happy to have him back home. He wants to come to spring training. One of the themes he kept coming back to (in 2009) was that he wanted to do something like this. He wants to tell our minor-leaguers what it means to be a Mariner, why it is special to be a Mariner. I can't imagine anybody else better suited.''

In a statement, Griffey said he is "looking forward to staying very involved with the Mariners."

"It's an exciting time, and I'm appreciative of the opportunity."

The club is saying Griffey will be involved in areas of the franchise including, but not limited to, Major League Baseball Operations, player development, the minor leagues, marketing, broadcasting and community relations.

Although the Mariners did not say so, it seems likely that Griffey will be given a chance to get behind the microphone some as the Mariners plan to use a variety of former players on television and radio this year while the club decides what it wants to do permanently with its broadcasts in the post-Dave Niehaus era.

Niehaus, a longtime friend of Griffey's who was the team's broadcaster from Day 1 in 1977, died in November.
Jeff Fletcher
John Hickey | Twitter: @JHickey3

John is a National Baseball Writer for AOL FanHouse. He covered the Seattle Mariners from 2000-2009 for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and seattlepostglobe.org and the Oakland A's for two decades at the Oakland Tribune and The Daily Review (Hayward, Calif.). He is a multiple Associated Press Sports Editors award winner for his baseball coverage. A member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, he is a Hall of Fame voter.
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