Major League Baseball has hired Ken Griffey Jr. to serve as a senior adviser to Rob Manfred, aiding the commissioner in the crucial work of youth development and improving diversity at the amateur level. He'll have his work cut out for him as the sport has been losing momentum through attrition, with fervor dissipating by the generation.
Setting aside the small quibble that Griffey's title should technically be Jr. adviser, there is so much to like about the move. Incorporating the coolest player who has ever played the game into a larger strategy to make baseball cool and attractive to the youth can only help. There have been countless debates over who the face of the sport is since Griffey retired and not a single person identified has risen to his level.
Griffey is 51 years-old. But he'll forever have bonafides as The Kid. In 30 years, those of us who grew up watching him will still see him with a backwards hat and a picture-perfect swing. No matter how much he ages, he'll always move in our mind's eye with the cool, smooth confidence of an athlete always in control.
That type of charisma and timelessness does not grow on trees. Griffey figures to be uniquely capable of delivering a message of why baseball is and always has been cool. Here he is in his own words:
In short, it's clear he gets it. And he wants others to get it in the same way he has since he was a child. In a way that will yield memories and joy for a lifetime. Griffey exudes earnestness and will surely be more effective in this role over a replacement player with far less cache.
Make no mistake. These are lofty aims and a big project. But it sure seems as though MLB has found the perfect fit.