Ken Griffey Jr. joins ownership group for Seattle Sounders

Ken Griffey Jr. joins ownership group for Seattle Sounders
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SEATTLE — The Seattle Sounders have added Baseball Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. to the club’s ownership group.

Griffey’s ownership stake was finalized earlier in the year, but the announcement had been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Griffey and his family make up the second addition to the ownership group this year, along with Seattle Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke and his wife, Tara.

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.

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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.”

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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.

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“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.”

WHO IS KEN GRIFFEY

George Kenneth Griffey Jr. (born November 21, 1969), nicknamed “Junior” and “the Kid”, is an American former professional baseball outfielder who played 22 years in Major League Baseball (MLB). He spent most of his career with the Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds, along with a short stint with the Chicago White Sox. A member of the Baseball Hall of Fame and a 13-time All-Star, Griffey is one of the most prolific home run hitters in baseball history; his 630 home runs rank as the seventh-most in MLB history. Griffey was also an exceptional defender and won 10 Gold Glove Awards in center field. He is tied for the record of most consecutive games with a home run (eight, with Don Mattingly and Dale Long).

Griffey signed lucrative deals with companies of international prominence like Nike and Nintendo; his popularity reflected well upon MLB and is credited by some with helping restore its image after the 1994 labor dispute. Griffey is one of only 29 players in baseball history to date to have appeared in major league games in four different calendar decades.

Following his playing career, Griffey joined the Mariners’ front office as a special consultant. He was inducted into both the Mariners’ Hall of Fame and the Reds Hall of Fame. In 2016, Griffey was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, receiving 99.32% of the vote, breaking pitcher Tom Seaver‘s record of 98.84%, a record that stood for three years.

Griffey is the son of former MLB player Ken Griffey Sr. and the father of National Football League player Trey Griffey.