It’s the All-Star break…no Mariners games to watch. What better time to share a non-game-based Mariners story?
Raise your hand if you know that Ken Griffey, Jr. has his own rap song? (Not just a rap song about him, but a song in which HE IS THE RAPPER – or one of them, at least). This is my story about Ken Griffey, Jr. , the recording artist, and his buddy, Kid Sensation.
[For those with short attention spans, you can check out and buy the three Griffey-based songs here , here, and here (or on iTunes)…and an Ichiro! song here. For the rest of you, please come on a ride with me back to the 1990s.]
I loved the Kingdome. Safeco Field is outstanding, but the Kingdome will always feel like my baseball home. When they imploded the Dome in 2000, I calculated that I had spent 78 entire days of my life at the Kingdome – 97% or more of that time was at Mariners games.
One thing I loved about the Kingdome was it was sparsely populated. Often times 15,000-20,000 people were crammed into 55,000 seats. There was a ton of room to move around and get to know the place. And I did. I knew the place backwards and forwards.
In 1991, the Kingdome became even more exciting for me. For a 2-3 year span, my family’s partial season ticket plan landed in an interesting spot – about 3 feet from Ken Griffey, Jr.’s good friend and Seattle Rap Legend, Kid Sensation (a/k/a Xola Malik – pronounced “Ko-Lah”).
When I was growing up in the 80s, we would go to 10-20 Mariners games each season. In 1991, my parents decided to get the 20-game plan. We were in the second row behind the visitors’ bullpen (3B line) in the first four seats on the right side of the aisle. Across the aisle in the front row, there were two guys in their early-20s who always seemed to be having a great time. One of them immediately seemed familiar, but I couldn’t place him at first.
Right away, we noticed these guys were interacting with Griffey from the stands. Griff would give them a nod or a point of the glove. Then, we saw the “familiar looking guy” exiting the Dome with Griff through the players’ parking lot. “Who is this guy?”
Before long, I made the connection. I had Kid Sensation and Sir Mix-A-Lot in heavy rotation. I soon recognized my Kingdome section-mate on the cover of Kid Sensation’s debut album “Rollin’ With Number One.” (By the way, my favorite K-Sen song at the time was “SeaTown Ballers,” check it out here).
I wasn’t a shy kid. So I was quick to introduce myself. Xola was one cool dude. Xola and his buddy, who I will call “C” and is Griff’s friend from Cincinnati, were always willing to chat with me and my buddies. When I didn’t have my 20-game plan tickets, Xola and C would let me and my buddies sit in their extra seats (they had what seemed to be about six seats that were often times filled with their friends, including Craig “Younger Brother” Griffey and D.J. Train (see M.C. Ren and N.W.A.))
I seemed to be the only person in the Dome that figured out that we were sitting next to Kid Sensation. And for a teenage guy who was already listening to Kid Sensation’s music it was extremely cool.
In 1992, Xola came out with his sophomore album, The Power of Rhyme. I bought it immediately and was psyched to find a track, “The Way I Swing,” featuring the vocal-stylings of the Mariners All-Star Center Fielder. “Swing” is the first episode of a trilogy of Griffey-based songs released by Xola between 1992-2009. All three are “must have” tracks for any fan of Ken Griffey, Jr. and the Seattle Mariners.
“The Way I Swing” begins with Dave Neihaus’s classic call of Griffey’s home run in his first career at bat in the Kingdome. From there, the two friends banter back-and-forth about their mad skills in the batters box and recording studio. (e.g., “One likes to Bat, the other likes to Battle, one from Cincinnati, and the other’s from Seattle, Griffey’s batting average is three-oh-oh and the Kid is undefeated with a dozen K.O.’s”).
Considering that Griffey undeniably is a first ballot Hall of Famer (he should be a unanimous selection) and one of the best baseball players of all time, it is utterly amazing to me that “The Way I Swing” is not universally known by all baseball fans.
The second installment in the Griffey-trilogy is 2000’s “Do Your Thing.” “Thing” doesn’t feature Griffey on the microphone, but it offers an unique behind-the-scenes look at Ken Griffey, Jr. “the friend.” Xola pays tribute to Griff’s accomplishments as a Mariner, reminisces about the good times the two shared during Griff’s first stint in Seattle, and offers Griff encouragement and love as he joins the Cincinnati Reds. The song can break your heart as a Mariners fan, but offers a moving glimpse into Griff’s personal life and his decision to return home to Cincy.
Finally, with Griffey’s resigning with the Mariners in 2009, Xola released the celebratory track “Back Home.” The song is pure joy. It begins with a radio host announcing to his Seattle listeners that Griffey has resigned with the Mariners, it includes excerpts from Griffey’s re-introductory press conference, and it perfectly captures the sheer joy and elation that die-hard Mariners fans felt the day Griffey decided to come “Back Home.”
In 2009, Xola has, for the most part, retired the Kid Sensation moniker. He is preparing to release a new album simply as Xola Malik (lets face it, neither Xola nor Griff is a “kid” anymore). Meanwhile, he is a successful businessman (see http://www.henchhench.com), a dedicated philantrophist (see http://www.liveunited.org/music), and a creative producer/performer and actor.
Sitting next to Xola back in the Kingdome was a thrill. Although I didn’t meet Griff while sitting with Xola, I got a peak into his circle of friends and a what it must have been like to hang out with him back in his 20s. Plus, Xola and C were just fun to be around. I recall once that Xola ordered a bag of peanuts from Seattle’s famed peanut vendor Rick Kaminski…
The Peanut Man threw the peanuts from the top arrow to Xola standing at the point of the bottom arrow, and nailed Xola in the hands. Sadly, Xola does not quite have the glove Griff has and the peanuts escaped his grasp and landed in the bullpen. (That’s alright though, Griff doesn’t quite have the same skills in the booth as Xola, so we’ll call it a draw).
Well, that’s my story of Griffey the recording artist and his friend Kid Sensation. I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope you’ll check out and enjoy these three great Griffey-based songs.
Tim and I will be checking out our first second-half game action this weekend in D.C…hopefully they actually play a game this time.
Cinco de Mayo marked the fifth and final game of our Seattle trip. We had great tickets 14 rows behind the visitors’ dugout. It was a 1:40 p.m. start time and Tim fell alseep on the drive down to Safeco Field. He remained in a quasi-sleep as I carried him into the stadium. Here we are at the end of our row of seats:
We got around and did a lot wihle Tim was still alseep…or close to asleep:
We also stood around and watched players warm up at both dugouts. Here is a picture with my mom and Tim:
In the top left, its a Mariners rookie pitcher wearing his pink Hello Kitty back pack. I’m not sure which pitcher that is. In the top right, you can see us standing above the M’s dugout. We saw Jason Vargas down in there. I said, “Hey, Vargas.” He nodded to me. As he walked under where he was no longer visible from the stands, I followed up, “Nice win the other night.” Vargas peeked his head back out and looked up to me and very earnestly said, “Thank you.” It was his first win in a long time due to injuries, so he was very happy to get it under his belt.
In the bottom left, I’m showing off a sleepy Tim and a ball we just got from Ian Kinsler. He was playing catch in front of the visitors’ dugout before the game. When he was finished, I yelled, “Hey, Ian” and I flashed my glove at him. He looked up and toss me the ball from 30-40 feet away with enough accuracy that I was able to catch it despite holding a sleeping 35 pounder in my arms.
At the bottom right, you can see that Tim finally started waking up and decided to check out the stadium with Grandpa’s binoculars.
As the Mariners took the field, the roof was closed:
But two seconds later, the roof began to open and the sun streamed in:
This was our view from our seats:
I noticed this little wind contraption on top of the Safeco Field roof:
With the sun shining bright, Tim decided to make some funny faces:
So we took some action shots of the Mariners:
At the top left, Russell Branyan (for some reason) is showing bunt with no one on base.
At top right, Ichiro is taking a pitch. Unfortunately, this was Tim’s first Mariners game in which Ichiro did not get a hit.
At bottom left, Erik Bedard is delivering a strike.
At bottom right, the Moose is hyping up the crowd.
For the first time on the trip, we saw the peanut man and got him to chuck us a bag of hot peanuts:
The peanut man is a Safeco Field All-Star. No one is better at selling and delivering peanuts than the peanut man. If Dave Neihaus can make the Mariners Hall of Fame, I truly believe Rick “Peanut Man” Kaminiski deserves to be enshrined as well. He has been making Mariners home games more fun since the beginning. Click here to see a short clip of the peanut man in action.
I also took some shots of the Rangers:
At top right, Ian Kinsler (fresh off of giving us his warm up ball) takes strike one on the first pitch of the game.
At bottom left, Michael Young fouls a ball into the Mariners dugout.
At bottom right, Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s last name makes a half circle around his number on the back of his jersey.
Next, I headed out to the outfield where my friend, Steve Escandon, and his boy, Diego, were sitting with Steve’s school. Steve is a teacher and his class was on the best field trip ever. I couldn’t find Steve right away, so I took a picture of the Safeco Field roof where it rests over the train tracks while it is in the “open” position:
A few second later, the rain started to fall and the roof closed. Here is a shot of it almost closed:
Eventually, I found Steve and Diego walking through the Left-CF concourse. They were dressed like it was the dead of winter while I was wearing shorts. We headed over to our seats so Steve could say hi to my folks and Diego could say hi to Tim. On our way over to the seats, we stopped in to see the bullpen pub:
Here is the view from the counter at the left of the picture above. It looks out to the field just below the hand operated scoreboard:
Finally, we made it to our seats and Tim did some close talking with Diego:
The game was another good one until the top of the 10th with two outs. The Mariners managed 1 run on 1 hit through nine innings. Vincente Padilla pitched lights out. Erik Bedard pitched well too and also gave up only one run.
In the top of the 10th inning, Shawn Kelly got hurt mid-pitch and the M’s brought in Denny Stark. My Dad commented that relieves never take enough time warming up when they come in after an injury to the previous pitcher. Well, Stark got the first two outs on long fly balls to Ichiro. But then he proved my Dad right. He gave up a barrage of consecutive hits including a grand slam by Saltalamacchia. The Mariners ended up losing 7-2 in 10 innings.
Again, Griff didn’t play due to his illness. While the trip was great fun and a smashing success in most respects, we failed in our quest to see Griff hit a home run as a Mariner. We’ll have to wait until the Mariners come to Baltimore in June.
Season Fan Stats:
4 Stadiums (Safeco Field, Camden Yards, Citizens Bank Park, and Citi Field)
9 Teams (Mariners, A’s, Rangers, Rays, Orioles, Phillies, Mets, Nationals, and Padres)
6 Ice Cream Helmet (Mariners (4), Phillies and Mets)
4 Baseballs (2 Mariners, 2 Rangers)
2 Mascot Pictures (Mariners Moose (2) and The Bird (O’s))