Baseball fans spent years looking at the majestic swing of Ken Griffey Jr. and now, thanks to his new TV project, we get to hear Griffey talk about the art of hitting with some of the game's current greats.
"Big Sticks with Ken Griffey Jr." debuts Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1, it's a series of one-on-ones created by MLB Productions where Griffey and another star break down film and talk about the art of hitting. It's not a traditional weekly TV show. Each one is its own special, and the first installment pairs Griffey with Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz.
Though, as Griffey told Big League Stew, another MLB legend is very much a part of this — Tony Gwynn, the San Diego Padres great, who died last week and who Griffey counts as one of his main influences.
"All the things I'm able to talk about now," Griffey says, "I heard from two people, one being my father and the other being Tony Gwynn."
Not only did Gwynn have a profound impact on Griffey — he knew Gwynn for most of his life, Griffey says — but one of his Gwynn's most indelible contributions to baseball was introducing an era of players watching their swings on video, breaking them down and fine-tuning them.
That's very similar to what "Big Sticks" is about. It's two great hitters talking about their craft, looking at footage, telling stories, discussing what works and why it works.
"I wish Tony was still here so that I could have him be a part of what I'm doing," Griffey says. "This is the one thing he talked about all the time — the mechanics of hitting, the ins and outs, the fun part, breaking guys' swings down and helping them improve."
Griffey seems like a logical fit for TV. Since he debuted in the big leagues at 19, fans were infatuated with his personality, his style and that elegant swing. But Griffey, now 44, said he didn't want to do a TV show just because the opportunity was there. He wanted to do something that truly appealed to him.
"If the right opportunity came along and it was fun and it was uplifting," Griffey says. "I wasn't just going to settle on doing something. It had to be fun, educational, and give you some insights on guys, but not feel like they're getting interviewed for a TV show."
He really means that. Griffey isn't trying to morph into a TV host. This isn't step one of him turning into Michael Strahan co-hosting morning TV. Griffey is still just a ballplayer talking with other ballplayers about the craft they share.
"It's their words more than mine," Griffey says. "What they see, how they prepare day in and day out, whether it's in the cage, in the tunnel or at home. A lot of people think baseball stops when the game is over, but it doesn't. It continues until the last out is made of the season."
And even longer than that. As Griffey is showing us now — like Gwynn showed as a coach — a great hitter can continue to practice his craft and share his wisdom in new ways, even after he retires.
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