Originally created 02/21/00

Reds' Griffey makes low-key arrival



SARASOTA, Fla. -- The star of the show arrived with plenty of boxes but absolutely no fanfare. That will change soon enough for Ken Griffey Jr.

Griffey slipped unannounced into the Cincinnati Reds' spring training complex Sunday to unpack his things and start the next phase of his baseball career, a day before his formal introduction.

Most of his new teammates had already headed out after a morning workout when Griffey drove in with his wife and two children, then spent a half-hour unpacking.

"It's a little different," he said. "Everything I've had for the last couple of years is blue, and now it's red."

That's just the beginning of the changes for Griffey, the Reds' biggest star since the Big Red Machine of the 1970s.

The 4-for-1 trade with Seattle on Feb. 10 set off a wave of calls to the Reds' offices, overwhelming their phone system. It also generated three times the usual number of calls to their spring training complex in Sarasota, which was making final preparations for his arrival Sunday.

The Reds planned a news conference today at 9:30 a.m. that will be the biggest thing to hit these parts since Michael Jordan showed up at Chicago White Sox camp with a bat instead of a basketball six years ago.

"The excitement around town has been nonstop," said Pat Calhoon, who manages the complex. "I don't think there's been any time when the box office was open in the last eight days that there hasn't been a line."

Even Griffey's teammates-in-waiting were enthusiastic about an arrival that has overshadowed the rest of training camp.

"It's definitely exciting," said first baseman Sean Casey, whose cubicle is next to Griffey's. "It's going to be awesome to see him play every day. That's going to be awesome. It's also going to be nice to get to know him as a person. I've heard good things about him."

Griffey showed up about three hours after the Reds' workout ended. Outfielder Michael Tucker was the only teammate in the clubhouse when Griffey walked in with his 6-year-old son, Trey.

A red No. 30 jersey already was hanging in one of Griffey's two dressing cubicles. A six-inch stack of mail was piled in one corner, soon to be towered over by boxes of shoes and other equipment.

"I don't even know what I'm supposed to wear," he said.

On the floor was a box of equipment from Seattle; a blue Mariners cap poked out from a jumble of cleats. He picked through the box to see what would go with his new ensemble.

He took off his denim hat to try on a black Reds spring training cap and found that it fit perfectly. So did the red warmup jacket.

Soon, Trey had on two Reds caps -- one facing forward and one backwards, his dad's favorite style.

Asked if it has sunk in yet that he's part of his hometown team, Griffey thought for a second and said, "Yeah and no. No, because I haven't run out on the field yet. Yeah, because I know where I'm going to be."

He agreed to a $116.5 million, nine-year contract that was about half his market value so he could finish his career with the Reds. When the trade was announced, Cincinnati got swept up in a Griffey mania that the outfielder has yet to experience firsthand.