The Seattle Sounders welcomed a new bundle of joy to their family, as the team announced Tuesday that Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. has joined the ownership group. Griffey and his family are the 14th addition to the Sounders ownership group since Joe Roth sold his shares last year, a star-studded group that includes Macklemore, Russ Wilson, Ciara and a cast of tech-world movers and shakers.
“Junior,” as Griffey is affectionately known, hardly needs an introduction to the greater Seattle sports fanbase. Drafted first overall in the Major League Baseball Amateur draft in 1987, Griffey quickly became a sports institution in Seattle, leading the moribund Mariners to their first playoff appearance in 1995 after nearly 20 years of futility.
Known for his sweet swing and engaging personality, Griffey was arguably the most popular baseball player in the world for much of the 1990s. In his first 11 seasons with the Mariners, Griffey’s dazzling play grew to what became considered the standard of elite fielding, highlighted by a streak of 10 consecutive Gold Glove Awards from 1990 through 1999. During this time in Seattle, he recorded 1,742 hits, 398 home runs, 1,152 RBI and 167 stolen bases. He led the American League in home runs for four seasons (1994, 1997-1999) and was voted American League MVP in 1997, all in addition to maintaining a .299 batting average during that span.
Griffey left the Mariners in 2000 to join the Cincinnati Reds before returning to finish his career with the Mariners in 2009. While he never reached the dizzying heights during his first stint with the team, Griffey remains a Seattle icon.
“This is a meaningful day for our entire family,” said Ken Griffey Jr in a release. “My wife Melissa and I said that we wanted to be a part of something special, not only for ourselves, but for our kids to be proud of, and this is it. We know how much this club means to Sounders fans, and for us, this comes back to the city where it all started for our family. We are joining a first-class organization, and we are so proud to give back to the city we love. To the Seattle Sounders community: we are inspired to become part of what you have created. Like you, we are excited to get behind our incredible team as the players prepare for this year’s playoff run.”
According to the release, Griffey’s stake in the ownership group was finalized earlier this year, prior to the explosion of the coronavirus pandemic. Like Tod Leiweke’s addition, it is believed that Griffey bought into Roth’s previous ownership stake, as opposed to diluting the others’. Notably, Griffey did the Scarves Up pregame ritual before November’s MLS Cup final.
“As a lifelong resident of this great city, bringing someone like Ken into Sounders FC holds a special significance to me, as he is truly a part of Seattle sports’ heart and soul,” Sounders majority owner Adrian Hanauer said. “We value the contributions that he will add as a partner in our club and welcome him and his family with open arms.”
The Sounders are set to hold their Annual Business Meeting tonight, where the announcement will certainly be a topic of discussion.