He is his own hitting coach now, lashing at orange range balls with a wedge, teaching himself to play righthanded after a lifetime as a lefty.
“I can’t keep it straight lefthanded,” explains Ken Griffey Sr., pulling a metal wood out of his bag.
This is the singular problem with golf, is it not? When the ball was bigger and it came at him at 90 mph or better, Senior’s slice often went for two bases and a duck hook could mean a triple. Foul balls cost him only strikes, not strokes.
Straight was OK but when caught, overrated.
But now golf is his game of choice, at least until someone chooses to rescue him from it.
This is what’s lured Senior to Spokane, specifically the Ken Easley Celebrity Golf Classic beginning today at Qualchan. And, yes, Junior is here with him, casted wrist and all, though he opted to lie low while Dad beat balls at The Fairways on Thursday.
Ken Griffey Sr. is, officially, no longer in baseball, though of course he is very much in baseball. He has a son, Craig, struggling mightily in Double-A ball to make himself into a switch hitter in much the same way Dad, only in the reflected glare of the older son. Burdensome as it must be to endure a story in every newspaper in the Southern League as being Junior’s little brother, it’s a damn sight worse when you’re hitting a buck-sixty.
“He’s realistic,” Senior said, “but people aren’t. Everyone expects him to be Junior.”
As for Junior, well, he’s still looking at three months on the disabled list healing and rehabilitating the most painful and disheartening broken wrist in the history of Seattle.
Antsy, is he?
“Junior’s always impatient, especially when he’s not playing,” Senior said. “I’m just glad he’s not living with me. But he won’t come back too fast. I’ll make sure of it.”
There you have it. Senior’s two-player Rotisserie team.
For most of us, it would be connection enough to the game, but you can’t help but pick up the vibe from Senior that he is merely killing time.
Yes, when he divorced himself from the Mariners organization over the winter, he did so with the announced intention of taking his life in a different direction. He would be going back to school with the long-term plan of establishing an automobile dealership, and so he has - and has found general accounting and advertising at the University of Cincinnati to be every bit the challenge hitting Ron Guidry was.
But now he also says, “Hopefully, I’ll get back into baseball.”
On his terms, he means.
Senior could still be in baseball. He could be the manager at Riverside, the M’s Class A affiliate in the California League, but he turned that down. He could be the hitting instructor at Triple-A Tacoma, but he turned that down. He could still be the hitting coach in Seattle, but he walked away from that job in January 1994.
Senior wants to manage, all right, but not in Riverside.
“I want to be a (major league) manager, or a player development director,” he said.
“I feel I can manage in the major leagues (now). There are a whole lot of guys who have been managers and didn’t manage in the minor leagues. I feel I can handle the job.”
He’s right, of course. Right now, there are eight big league managers who didn’t apprentice in Appleton or Ogden. Lou Piniella, for one. Cito Gaston, for another. Dusty Baker won 103 as a rookie skipper. Don Baylor’s first team won more games than any first-year National League expansion club.
But Baker coached for five seasons under Roger Craig, Gaston for seven in Toronto. Marcel Lachemann spent nine years as a pitching coach. Only Joe Torre among the current lot jumped straight from player to manager.
There are some dues to be paid.
Senior’s resume since retiring as a player includes two summers as a part-time minor league instructor sandwiched around his lone year as the M’s batting coach. Oh, yes, and his stint as the manager of Seattle’s instructional league entry this past winter.
“I’m grateful to the Mariners and Woody Woodward for that opportunity,” he said. “It reinforced the idea of me wanting to manage. I learned a lot. I learned it’s easy to change real quick if you let it happen. But I tried to manage the way I would like be managed - I tried not to manage personalities but to manage talent.”
The issue now is that he’s taken himself out of the loop, if ever so slightly. Each year he’s out would seem to make it that much more difficult to return.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “The only ones who can make it tough are the people in baseball and I don’t think I’ve burned any bridges in this game.”
, DataTimes The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = John Blanchette The Spokesman-Review
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