Welcome to the Seattle Sounders, Ken Griffey Jr.
The former longtime Seattle Mariner and Major League Baseball Hall of Famer became the latest Sounders owner on Tuesday, joining a star-studded group that already includes Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, his wife and singer Ciara and rapper Macklemore.
Griffey Jr., also known as The Kid, hardly needs an introduction. He’s perhaps the city of Seattle’s most famous, accomplished and recognizable athlete of all time. He spent 13 years with the Mariners, from 1989-99 and then again from 2009-10. He finished his illustrious career with 630 home runs and 1,836 RBI, which is seventh and 16th all time, respectively, in MLB history. He was also selected to 13 MLB All-Star Games, won 10 Gold Gloves and was the 1997 American League MVP.
Griffey Jr. and fellow Sounders FC owner Macklemore on the field before the 2019 MLS Cup | Jane Gershovich
Griffey Jr.’s decision to join the Sounders was a family one, led strongly by his wife of 31 years, Melissa, who is a die-hard soccer fan and former player herself. He quipped that the concept of stoppage time took him a little while to get used to, but he enjoys how fast-pace and exciting soccer is.
“I wanted to be a part of something, not only for myself, but for my kids to be proud of,” Griffey Jr. said. “This is it.”
Griffey Jr. had a special moment at MLS Cup 2019, when the Sounders defeated Toronto FC 3-1 in front of nearly 70,000 fans at CenturyLink Field. He led the crowd in “Scarves Up” to boisterous applause, 10 years after he made his return to the Mariners and the same year the Sounders joined MLS.
He remembered being at his apartment downtown during one of the first games in 2009 and hearing the noise from the stadium. He had to check to make sure it wasn’t coming from his television.
“It was loud,” he said of his first impression of the Sounders. “As a player, when a stadium is loud, that’s what you want. When new things come in, the city is behind you, they want you here.”
Although he was raised in Cincinnati, the son of former MLB player Ken Griffey Sr., Griffey Jr. likes to tell people he became a man in Seattle. His wife is from Seattle and his first two kids were born here. He’s still active in the community and donates time with the Boys and Girls Club, the Make-a-Wish Foundation and Seattle Children’s Hospital. Joining the Sounders is just another example of him further engraining himself in the city that is special to the Griffey family.
Griffey Jr. wants to make it clear that he and his family’s decision to become part owners is not one that will be treated passively or taken lightly. He is as competitive as they come and grew up in a household where nothing was given, and he had to earn everything. To this day, he won’t even let his kids beat him in a basketball game of H-O-R-S-E. He plans on employing the same mindset that helped him become one of baseball and Seattle’s legends.
Griffey Jr. performing scarves up at MLS Cup | Corky Trewin
“You always want to be a part of a winning team,” he said. “To be on a championship-caliber team and an organization that wants to win and wants to compete and wants to go out there every single game and put the best product on the field, not only for the guys who are in that locker room, but for the 70,000 people who are watching [in the stadium] and the people who are sitting at home watching, that’s important. You want a winner.”
As for his aspirations with the club, he’s looking to mirror a fellow American League baseball team that has a history and tradition of just that.
“I don’t play games to be competitive, I play to win,” Griffey Jr. said. “I want the Sounders to be compared to the Yankees. Twenty-seven, 28 championships. That’s what I root for, that’s what I want.”