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Originally published February 19, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified February 19, 2009 at 8:47 PM

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Jerry Brewer

Griffey was the Kid, now he's the Adult

Ken Griffey Jr.'s return to Seattle proves it's true. You can go home again. There was only one place the erstwhile Kid could go to complete his sterling career: back to his major-league roots, back to where he once played with his daddy, back to the scene of his excellence. Back to the Mariners.

Seattle Times staff columnist

PEORIA, Ariz. — So it's true. You can go home again.

Ken Griffey Jr. proved it early Wednesday night as he ended the waffling and listened to his ticker. There was only one place the erstwhile Kid could go to complete his sterling career: back to his major-league roots, back to where he once played with his daddy, back to the scene of his excellence.

Back to Seattle.

He's a Mariner once more, and, well, can you believe it? Really, can you believe it?

Junior spurned the allure of Atlanta, and his decision rendered the drama of the past few days insignificant. Now it only matters that his return, schmaltzy as it may be, provides the rarest of opportunities. Griffey can end his Seattle story with a curtain call instead of that heartbreaking ciao of 10 years ago.

And maybe, with some assistance from the health fairy, he will feel good enough to be productive on the field. That's the dilemma here. At 39 and coming off knee surgery, he's a senior Junior now.

No amazing displays of athleticism in the outfield. No eight-game homer streaks. No historical dashes from first to home.

Griffey is a mortal, even more human than he was two years ago when he played his first series in Seattle since leaving in 1999. In the series finale, he hit two home runs. During stretches this season, it might take him a month to hit two homers.

So you didn't get the Kid back. You got a fossil of him.

Bear with Griffey as you watch him clinging to the caboose of his career. At times, it will be difficult. At times, it will be painful. Nevertheless, you will enjoy having him with you again for the poetry of it all, for the "And it shall end as it began" phenomenon, for the chance to cheer him again and send him to the Hall of Fame with wet eyes.

There's no telling what the benefits will be beyond that burst of joy. But the long standing ovation during the home opener just might produce enough goose bumps to justify his $2 million base salary.

Despite Griffey's age, his mind is intact, his charisma remains, and within that stiff body rests the heart of a superstar. Legends don't forget how to be legends. Griffey will have his moments this season. How many is uncertain, but he'll have his moments.

You only get one childhood, even in baseball. It'll take a while to adjust to the Adult. He's still as dramatic as ever, which his wishy-washy free agency showed, but he's also a sage who can sit at his locker and revisit past glory. Finally, there will be a presence in the clubhouse that even Ichiro cannot ignore. While Griffey has never been a vocal leader, there's still a chance he can reach Ichiro, who idolized Junior as a youngster.

Ichiro figures to be more engaged now, more part of the team because he'll want to impress his hero. At the very least, the Adult will be the one Mariner who can approach the eccentric leadoff hitter and make baseball exciting again. Clearly, Ichiro didn't have much fun last season, with all the losing and the blame he received for being a bad teammate.

Junior gives the rebuilding Mariners an identity. It's quite odd, though, the dichotomy of a team building for the future and a prodigal Kid returning for his victory lap. Instead of breaking from the old, the M's just reintroduced an honorable portion of their past for the sake of nostalgia.

If nostalgia can hit about .275 with 20 to 25 homers, it will be worth it.

And if it flops? What the heck. It was a nice thought at the time. See you in Cooperstown, Griff.

It's the epitome of a no-lose signing, as long as all parties can manage expectations. The Adult is a lesser player than the Kid. But he's home, and tone thing about home that never changes.

The love is forever unconditional.

Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or jbrewer@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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About Jerry Brewer

Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports. Also check out Jerry's Extra Points blog, where he talks with readers about his columns.
jbrewer@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2277

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