Ken Griffey Jr. is on the other end of the phone, and you have to ask him about a certain baseball movie from 1994.
"Not sure if you're aware," you say to him. "But next week is the 20th anniversary of 'Little Big League.' "
There's no doubt Griffey remembers "Little Big League," it was part of the mid-'90s boom of baseball movies and what stood out about it — aside from the plot point of a kid managing the Minnesota Twins — was that producers were able to cast Griffey. He was the one of the most popular players in the game at that point, so having Griffey in "Little Big League" gave the film instant cachet.
But you figure Griffey's career is so vast and memorable that "Little Big League" is nothing but a fun conversation point for him, not something to which he'd countdown the anniversary. So when the topic of the 20th anniversary comes up, it's a bit surprising when he answers so matter of factly.
"Yeah, I know," he says.
"I watch it once or twice a year," he says, which is probably more than most people watch it every 10 years. "It's because of my son. He says, 'Dad, you're on TV.' There are only a couple shows where he says that and he knows I'll sit there and watch it."
Luke Edwards is surprised to hear this too. Edwards starred in "Little Big League" as Billy Heywood, an 11-year-old baseball fan who inherits the Twins from his grandfather, then makes himself manager. Griffey is essentially the nemesis of Heywood, both when he's a Twins fan and later when he's the manager. But like any kid at that time, Edwards was in awe of Griffey.
"I'm glad that he watches it," Edwards says, now 34. "I always wondered if it was just sort of a footnote for him. He was great. He was a good actor. He totally did his thing. On top of that, he was a really nice guy. He was really nice to all the cast and crew. It was really fun to be a part of that."
Griffey's Seattle Mariners teammate at the time, Randy Johnson, was also in "Little Big League," but Griffey was a fixture in the movie's marketing, appearing in the trailer and, ultimately, making the movie more realistic. Aside from the whole 11-year-old manager thing.
"They did an all right job," Griffey said about making a baseball movie that baseball players would like. "The hidden-ball trick was popular at the time. It was supposed to be a kid's movie that adults can see and not feel like you're going to a kid's movie.
"You definitely drop water balloons off the balcony every now and then."
Probably the best compliment you can give something from 20 years ago — whether it's an outfit you wore, a song you used to like or, in this case, a film you were in — is that you don't cringe at it in retrospect. And Griffey certainly doesn't do that with "Little Big League."
"I'm not embarrassed by it." Griffey says. "When you have kids in college and their friends say, 'Mr. Griffey, i saw you on TV' and they don't go 'ha-ha' or make a joke about it, that's a good thing."
Coming Wednesday on Big League Stew: A 20th anniversary Q & A with "Little Big League" star Luke Edwards.
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