PEORIA, Ariz. — Roger Hansen was working with players on minor league fields Wednesday when he was asked to report to one of the upper fields near the Seattle Mariners’ spring training clubhouse.
“I was tipped off that I needed to head up to Field 2 to look at those players,” said Hansen, the Mariners’ popular catching coordinator who lives in Stanwood. “As I started to walk up, I saw the thing.”
“The thing” was something larger than life orchestrated by someone larger than life.
Covering the entire 60-foot-by-30 “batter’s eye” on the center field fence at Field 1 was a photo of Ken Griffey Jr. embracing Hansen along the dugout railing at Peoria Stadium.
The photo was shot early in spring training and Griffey, whose friendship with Hansen goes back to their days as minor league roommates in 1988, decided to have some fun with it. Early this month he had copies hung from the training room wall before Hansen pulled them down.
Griffey then threatened to make some bigger copies of the photo — so big that he’d consider it his best prank since he led a cow into former manager Lou Piniella’s office during spring training in 1995.
He said he might turn the photo into a vinyl image that would be wrapped completely around the team bus (Hansen said he’d tear it off). He talked of covering the batter’s eye on the practice field (Hansen said he’d put a torch to it). He even hinted at something involving an airplane.
Anything Griffey could think of, he threatened. And, of course, Hansen said he would destroy the work.
Wednesday, when Hansen walked toward Field 2 where he was asked to report, he saw the huge image for the first time. He wouldn’t repeat the words that were going through his mind, but they definitely were flowing.
And all the while, Griffey was having a great laugh.
Knowing he had no chance to get even, considering the resources Griffey has to pull such a prank, Hansen did silence him 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 put it to his ear, listened a few seconds and said, “Oh, hi Mom.”
Hansen had called Griffey’s mother, Birdie, and described 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 but take some pride in what he’d done.
“I did it for the catchers,” he 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, “Next time 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.”