Griffey stars in debut for Mariners

Part of the INSIDE PITCH series
Written by: Craig Muder

After just 552 minor league plate appearances – including a mere 68 as high as Double-A – the No. 1 overall pick in the 1987 MLB Draft was ready for the big leagues.

Nineteen-year-old Ken Griffey Jr. did not disappoint.

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In the first at-bat of his first big league game on April 3, 1989, Griffey – batting second in the Seattle Mariners’ lineup – doubled off the left-center field wall at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum off Athletics’ ace Dave Stewart.

Then in the sixth inning, Griffey drew a walk off Stewart and later scored on a single by teammate Darnell Coles.

The Mariners lost the game 3-2, but those in attendance knew they were watching someone special.

“Griffey’s the kind of player who makes managers look good,” Seattle skipper Jim Lefebvre told the Associated Press.

“Here’s a guy that’s 19 years old and gets two strikes on him and then chokes up on the bat. I have veteran players who won’t do that.”

Griffey would go on to play in 127 games that season for the Mariners, hitting .264 with 16 homers, 61 RBI and 16 stolen bases.

As the center fielder, Griffey was one of four rookies in Seattle’s lineup in his debut along with Greg Briley in left field, Omar Vizquel at shortstop and future Hall of Fame teammate Edgar Martinez at third base.

By the 1990 season, Griffey had earned the first of his 10 Gold Glove Awards and been selected for the All-Star Game.

But on that April night in 1989, Griffey felt he still had work to do.

“I had a chance to drive in some runs and I hit the ball up,” Griffey told the AP of his at-bats against Stewart and relief pitcher Rick Honeycutt.

“I just try to keep the ball in play and you can do that if you shorten up.”

Griffey would drive in 1,836 runs over his 22-year big league career while hitting 630 home runs.

He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2016.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the INSIDE PITCH series