Ichiro finally gets chance to play with Griffey
Last updated 2-26-09 at 3:53 p.m.
By Gregg Bell
The Associated Press
PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) — Ken Griffey Jr. said that his return to the Seattle Mariners is a special opportunity to close a career with the same team that he started with.
Ichiro Suzuki called it “a dream come true.”
Suzuki, a perennial All-Star and Gold Glove outfielder, first met Griffey in 1995 when Suzuki was a star in the Japanese League and on a U.S. tour that also let him meet Michael Jordan.
But next month will be the first time he gets to play with Griffey, who left a year before Suzuki arrived in Seattle and instantly became the AL’s MVP.
“Sixteen years ago, I bought a Ken Griffey Jr. jersey. This is one of my treasures to this day,” Suzuki said through his interpreter from Miyazaki, where Team Japan is training for the World Baseball Classic that begins on March 5 when Japan hosts China in Tokyo.
“He has always been a hero to me,” Suzuki said of Griffey. “And being able to play with him is like a dream come true.”
Griffey signed a one-year contract with the Mariners, who will pay him $2 million plus incentives.
Griffey said he hopes that his surgically repaired knee allows him to play in left field this season. Suzuki plays right field in Seattle. Griffey joked that he expected to move Suzuki out of his leadoff spot in the Mariners’ batting order.
Griffey will be placed in the middle of the batting order, where he will either play as the left fielder or as the designated hitter.
Griffey, 39, also hopes Suzuki will be wearing that keepsake Griffey jersey when he sees him for the first time in camp — perhaps as late as March 25 if Japan advances to the finals of the WBC.
Anything would be better for Griffey than the 35-year-old Suzuki’s usual ensembles, such as skintight, retro-chic shirts and ripped jeans with gold-painted sneakers.
“I plan on having him take me out to dinner four or five times — a week,” Griffey said of Suzuki, who signed a $90 million, five-year contract with the Mariners two years ago. “As long as he doesn’t dress [like usual].
“I’ve got to change his wardrobe. Can’t wear skinny ties. Those went out with Duran Duran,” he said. (end)