Griffey's legacy extends to Minors

Junior debuted as 17-year-old in Northwest League

Ken Griffey Jr. appeared in only 17 games at the Double-A level. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

By Danny Wild / | June 3, 2010 3:09 PM

With Ken Griffey Jr. ending a storied 22-year Major League career on Wednesday, it's hard to remember just where it all began over two decades ago.

Griffey, who retired with 630 career homers, gave fans a glimpse of what was to come back in summer 1987, when the kid with the famous name moved to the tiny town of Bellingham, Wash., to begin his Minor League career.

Junior, a skinny 17-year-old high school outfielder who grew up in Major League clubhouses, joined Rookie-level Bellingham in the Northwest League after the Mariners handed him $160,000 as the No. 1 overall pick in the '87 Draft.

Griffey had plenty of hype surrounding him before the Draft, especially with his father still playing in the Majors. Not surprisingly, he transitioned well from Archbishop Moeller High School (Cincinnati, Ohio) to the Minors, batting .313 with 14 homers, 40 RBIs and 13 stolen bases in his first season at Bellingham, a coastal Washington town that had a population just big enough to fill up Seattle's Kingdome.

The 6-foot-3 Griffey earned a promotion to Class A Advanced San Bernadino in 1988, where he hit .338 with 74 hits, 11 home runs, 42 RBIs and 32 steals in only 58 games.

The Mariners let him finish his first full season at Double-A Vermont, where he batted .279 with a pair of homers and 10 RBIs in 17 starts.

That, however, was enough for the Mariners. After only a few weeks at Double-A, Griffey took advantage of his opportunity the following year. As a non-roster invitee in 1989, he hit .359 with 21 RBIs in 26 Spring Training games for Seattle. Griffey made the Mariners' Opening Day roster and went on to smack 16 homers and 61 RBIs in 127 games.

Soon enough, the flashy outfielder would have his own Nike sneakers, Super Nintendo video game and a nice collection of Gold Gloves and All-Star selections. He was elected to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team in 1999.

From Bellingham in 1987, Griffey, 23 years later, is surely headed to another the small town in upstate New York.

Danny Wild is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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