*At spring training Wednesday with the Seattle Mariners, Ken Griffey Jr. finally discussed his reasons for suddenly retiring from baseball last June — and the reason he left with just a prepared statement to explain his decision, reports ESPN.
“I just felt that it was more important for me to retire and instead of being a distraction, it no longer became the Seattle Mariners, it became, ‘When is Ken doing this? When is Ken doing that?’ and that’s something I didn’t want to have my teammates, who I truly cared about, having to answer these types of questions day in and day out,” Griffey said in Peoria, Ariz.
Amid Griffey’s struggles last season before he retired — and a report that he had fallen asleep in the clubhouse during a game in May — he also had a strained relationship with manager Don Wakamatsu, who was fired two months after Griffey left.
Griffey reminded reporters that he previously had said when it came time to walk away, he would do it quickly and quietly.
“You want me to apologize for something that I felt was right? I had to do what I thought was right for me,” he said.
Griffey was batting .184 with no home runs and seven RBIs when, on June 2, he issued a retirement statement through the Mariners, got in his car and drove home to Orlando, Fla., abruptly ending a 22-season career.
Griffey said Wednesday that he previously had told the Mariners’ front office “that if I become a distraction or feel that I would be a distraction, then I would retire, because that’s the one thing that I didn’t want,” according to the Seattle Times.
“Second, I gave myself a little bit of a head start. There are a lot of people that are friends of mine that would have tried to talk me out of it. And I just felt that it was best for me and the organization to retire. Through no fault of its own. Things happen. I’m not upset,” he told reporters. “I think people thought I was upset about certain things, but that’s not the case.”
Griffey, who was drafted No. 1 overall by the Mariners in 1987 and played 13 of his 22 seasons with Seattle, said he was happy to be back with the team as a special consultant. He reported to camp Wednesday after fulfilling earlier commitments and said he will be working with the club’s minor league prospects and make an occasional appearance in the TV booth.
“I’m happy to be back. I’m glad the Mariners gave me an opportunity to be part of the future,” Griffey said. “This is the organization I grew up in. If there was going to be an opportunity for me to be in baseball, it was going to be here.”
He ended his career with 630 home runs — fifth all-time — as well as 2,781 hits and a .284 career batting average. His 1,836 RBIs are 14th all-time and led all active players when he retired.
Many believe Griffey would have challenged Henry Aaron’s 755 home runs — a record since surpassed by Barry Bonds — had he not been dogged by numerous injuries late in his career.
A 13-time All-Star, Griffey was American League MVP in 1997, led the AL in home runs four times and earned 10 Gold Gloves.