"Welcome home, Junior."
That's the message that Ken Griffey Jr. received from Cincinnati Reds fans when it was announced that he would be returning. Griffey agreed to a nine-year contract with the Reds worth $116.5 million, the richest package in baseball history. The agreement covers 2000 to 2008, and the Reds have an option for a 10th season. "This is something I dreamed about as a little kid, being back in my hometown where I watched so many great players," he said. Today, pitchers and catchers report to spring training, and next Wednesday, all players will report.
Q: Why does Griffey have such a strong connection with the Reds?
A: Griffey used to hang around the Reds clubhouse as a boy while his father, Ken Sr., helped the team win championships in the 1970s. Today, his dad is the bench coach of the Reds and is expected to be the team's next manager.
Q: In what ways will the Ken Griffey Jr. deal change the landscape of baseball?
A: The home-run race in the National League has been a two-man show the past two years between the Cubs' Sammy Sosa and the Cardinals' Mark McGwire, but Griffey will shake things up a bit. The 10-time all-star is considered a threat to break Hank Aaron's career home run record of 755. Griffey already has hit 398 homers in his career.
He is also a big fan draw. Last Friday was the Reds' biggest ticket-sale day in history, beating the record set Thursday. There were lines outside Cincinnati's Cinergy Field, lines inside to fill out applications for season tickets, and there were reports that scalpers were asking $4,000 for tickets to the home opener.
Q: What did Griffey turn down in Seattle?
A: An eight-year, $148 million contract extension. "It doesn't matter how much money you make," he said. "It's where you'll be happy...." When he turned down the Seattle offer last summer, he forced the Mariners to trade him rather than let him leave after 2000 as a free agent.
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