Sports | January 29, 2021 4:06 pm

Can Ken Griffey Jr. Save Major League Baseball?

MLB hired the Hall-of-Fame outfielder as a senior advisor to commissioner Rob Manfred

Ken Griffey Jr. attends the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony
Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. attends the Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2019.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Major League Baseball is hoping the face of the game in the 1990s will be able to help the sport survive and grow in the 2020s and beyond.

On Friday, Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Ken Griffey Jr. would be joining MLB as his senior advisor. In his new role, the Hall-of-Fame outfielder “will consult with MLB on a number of issues, with a special emphasis on baseball operations and youth baseball development, particularly regarding improving diversity at amateur levels of the game. “

Griffey, 51, will also serve as an MLB ambassador at youth baseball initiatives and at its special events like the All-Star Game.

Known for his sweet swing, backward hat and Super NES baseball video game, the All-Star was one of the most popular athletes in sports during his days with the Seattle Mariners, and kids who grew up in the ’90s likely have a soft spot in their hearts for him.

As many of those ’90s kids now have children of their own, hiring Griffey to appeal to young potential fans as well as win over their parents, or at least keep them slightly interested in MLB, makes a lot of sense in theory.

“I’m trying to get kids to play baseball,” Griffey said Friday on the MLB Network. “I think it’s the greatest sport in the world and I want more kids to play.”

A 13-time All-Star over 22 seasons with the Mariners, Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox, the charismatic 1997 MVP award winner was synonymous with fun, a characteristic that is largely missing from MLB in 2021.

Griffey, who concluded his career in 2010 with more All-Star votes (with 50,044,176) from fans than any other player in the history of baseball, drew viewers as a player — maybe he will be able to do the same in his new role working with Manfred.

Even if he doesn’t, it’s nice to see baseball trying something a little unorthodox, as well as putting a Black former athlete in what could end up being a prominent executive position.

“We are thrilled that Ken will represent Major League Baseball on some of our sport’s most important stages, alongside our current and future stars,” Manfred said. “We welcome the perspective and insights that Ken gained as a historic player, as a parent, and as someone who has spent his life in and around our great game.”

Don’t just welcome Griffey’s perspective and insights Mr. Manfred, listen to ’em.