For the past week or so, Ken Griffey Jr. has planted a few worrisome seeds into the mind of Roger Hansen, the popular Seattle Mariners catching coordinator from Stanwood.
Griffey leaked word that Hansen just might be the target of his greatest prank — greater than the day he borrowed a cow from a Peoria-area farmer and led it into former manager Lou Piniella’s office. It was Junior’s way of paying off a steak-dinner bet he lost to Piniella.
A few weeks ago, Griffey got hold of a photo of him and Hansen, arm-in-arm in the Mariners’ dugout earlier this spring training. It was a great photo of two men whose close relationship began in 1988 when Griffey was a minor league teen-ager in his second pro season and Hansen was at the end of his playing career.
Hansen has this tough-guy personna around camp, although those in the organization know him as a kind, caring man who is perfect for the young catchers he helps mold into big leaguers.
So he naturally bristled at the photo of he and Griffey embracing in the dugout. And Griffey, knowing that, had copies of it made and hung them in the training room.
Hansen bristled again, so Griffey threatened more good-natured abuse using the photo. He planned to turn it into a vinyl image that would be wrapped completely around the team bus (Hansen said he’s tear it off).
There was the huge banner he threatened to make of it, covering the entire batter’s eye on the center field fence of the Mariners’ main practice field (Hansen said he’d put a torch to it). Hansen also braced himself for something involving an airplane.
Anything Griffey could think of, he threatened. And, of course, Hansen said he would destroy the work.
This afternoon, while Hansen was on the lower practice fields with some minor leaguers, he got a message to report to Field 2 to work with a few catchers. When he got there, he couldn’t avoid seeing what Griffey had done. It was the photo hanging from the batter’s eye. The entire width and height of the batter’s eye, about 60 feet wide by 30 feet tall.
“I was tipped off that I needed to head up to Field 2 to look at those players,” Hansen said. “As I started to walk up, I saw the thing.”
We can’t print the thoughts that were going through Hansen’s head. But they definitely were flowing, most involving bodily injury and, again, we can’t say here what part of the anatomy they involved.
All the while Griffey was having a great laugh.
Hansen knows he has no chance of getting even, not with the resources Griffey has to pull off such a thing. But he did silence Griffey for a while.
“I was on the phone, and I walked over to Junior and said, ‘Oh, somebody wants to talk to you,’” Hansen said.
“Somebody wants to talk to me?” Griffey asked.
“Yeah. Here,” Hansen said, handing him the phone.
Griffey took the phone and put it to his ear, listened a few seconds and said, “Oh, hi Mom.”
Hansen had called Birdie Griffey and told her what her son had done.
“It just shut him right up,” Hansen said. “It buckled him.”
In the clubhouse, Griffey first denied any involvement, then couldn’t help himself.
“I did it for the catchers,” Griffey shouted.
Back in the coaches’ room, Hansen shouted that he’d arrange to have Griffey released.
Griffey responded with a reminder that he has a guaranteed contract, and then shouted back toward Hansen, “Nex ttime you call my Momma, we need to talk!”
“We go way back. We’re very close friends. The family, too,” he said. “It’s just fun stuff. He has a lot of money to play the fun stuff. But that’s going way beyond what needs to be done.”
On a serious note, manager Don Wakamatsu is rolling out a lineup that we’re likely to see on opening day (except, of course, that Ian Snell is pitching tonight). Here are tonight’s lineups:
Ichiro Suzuki, right field
Chone Figgins, second base
Milton Bradley, left field
Ken Griffey Jr., DH
Jose Lopez, third base
Casey Kotchman, first base
Franklin Gutierrez, center field
Rob Johnson, catcher
Jack Wilson, shortstop
Right-hander Ian Snell, starting pitcher
Julio Borbon, center field
Michael Young, third base
Josh Hamilton, left field
Vlad Guerrero, DH
Nelson Cruz, right field
Chris Davis, first base
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, catcher
Joaquin Arias, second base
Elvis Andrus, shortstop
Right-hander Scott Feldman, starting pitcher