Griffey Drafted First Overall by Mariners

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Janey Murray

On June 2, 1987, Ken Griffey Jr. began creating his own legacy.

Much of Griffey’s life up to that point had been spent watching his father, Ken Griffey Sr., play the outfield for the Cincinnati Reds, New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves.

But all eyes turned to the younger Griffey entering the 1987 MLB Draft. He put together an exceptional senior season at Archbishop Moeller High School in Cincinnati, batting .478 with seven home runs, 26 RBI and 13 stolen bases. Expectations were sky high for the young outfielder.

“To me, he’s got more power than I will ever have,” Griffey Sr. told the Associated Press. “He hits it a lot harder. At his age now, he’s a lot faster than I was.”

Griffey Jr.’s journey in professional baseball officially began when he was drafted by the Seattle Mariners with the first overall selection in the 1987 draft, making him the first son of a major league player to be taken first overall. Less than 20 minutes later, Seattle signed him to a contract that featured a signing bonus of nearly $200,000.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Griffey Jr. said of playing professional baseball. “It’s something I’ve thought seriously about for the past 11 years. I never thought I’d be the No. 1 player picked. That’s an honor.”

Father and son were both on hand for the draft celebration and subsequent press conference at their home in West Chester, Ohio. The fanfare and commotion of the day was rather unfamiliar for the elder Griffey, who was selected by the Reds in the 29th round of the 1969 draft.

“There were three people in the room,” Griffey Sr. said of his own draft celebration. “Me, my mother and the scout that signed me.”

As Griffey Jr. prepared to embark on his own career, Griffey Sr. had some words of advice to share with his son.

“Staying consistent is the main thing,” Griffey Sr. said. “He doesn’t want to get in a situation where he has a great year and then he has an off year, and then have people wondering what he’s going to do next year.”

Upon their selection of him in the draft, the Mariners were more than optimistic about Griffey Jr.’s future in the game.

“We think he’s a complete player,” said Dick Balderson, then the Mariners’ vice president of baseball operations. “He’s an above-average runner, an above-average hitter, has above-average power. You can polish a few stones but you can’t make a guy hit 30 home runs if he’s only capable of hitting two.”

As soon as he joined the Mariners organization, Griffey Jr. made a swift ascent to the major leagues. Following the draft, he reported to Seattle’s rookie league affiliate in Bellingham, Wash., then split the 1988 season between Class A San Bernardino and Double-A Vermont.

On Opening Day in 1989, he made his MLB debut, kick starting what would be an exceptional major league career. Over his 22 big league seasons, Griffey Jr. batted .284, amassing 630 home runs, 2,781 hits and 1,836 RBI, and earned 13 All-Star Game selections, 10 Gold Glove Awards and seven Silver Slugger Awards.

When he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2016, Griffey Jr. became the first No. 1 overall draft pick to be enshrined.


Janey Murray is the digital content specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series