SEATTLE (AP) -Ken Griffey Jr. turned his cap around backward as he walked into the batting cage. Second swing, home run eight rows into the bleachers beyond right field. Third swing, a towering drive off a cafe window in the second deck.
The loudest batting practice crowd at Safeco Field in years roared.
For a moment, it was the 1990s again in Seattle.
``Griffey, you the man!'' yelled a Mariners fan in the first deck.
The man credited with saving baseball in Seattle through majestic home runs, wall-scaling catches and magnetic charisma was back for the first time since forcing the Mariners to trade him to his hometown Cincinnati Reds in 2000. He is 37 now, owner of 582 career home runs entering Friday.
``I've had some good times here. Learned to play baseball here,'' said Griffey, whom the Mariners drafted No. 1 overall in 1987 and put on their opening-day lineup two days later. He stayed there for the next 11 years.
``Being a 19-year-old kid, it was on-the-job training. And the organization here allowed me to be me,'' he said.
Griffey smiled often while keeping his arms crossed in front of him on a table during a press conference before batting practice, and he addressed the crowd in a ceremony on the field just before the start of the game. He shared his thoughts and memories of playing and living in Seattle.
He was less forthcoming about his frustrating, injury-filled 7 1/2 seasons with the Reds. It has included eight trips to the disabled list, no postseason appearances and Cincinnati's perceptions of him being moody and unapproachable.
Griffey was an All-Star 10 times in 11 years with Seattle. He's been an All-Star just twice in seven seasons while with the Reds.
``I still have fun,'' he said. ``I think it took a while for the people of Cincinnati to understand me. I still think sometimes they don't understand me. I think the people in Seattle know that I don't like to talk about myself ... I'd rather get up, go out and play baseball and go home.''
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Buhner, Griffey, Alex Rodriguez, Edgar Martinez and Randy Johnson all were with Seattle in 1995 when it picked up its first postseason series victory.
Griffey was injured early in the season but returned to lead the Mariners on a wild rally to win the AL West in a one-game playoff. He then scored from first base on Martinez's double to beat the Yankees in the final game of the division series.
That fueled momentum for lawmakers to pass special legislation that fall to build Safeco Field - ``The House that Griffey Built.'' That, in turn, kept the Mariners from moving.
``Do I think about '95? Yeah,'' Griffey said. ``We had things that you always dream of. Playing in the playoffs. Winning a playoff game ... the Edgar double. Everyone jumping on each other at home plate. That will never leave my memory. And being a Seattle Mariner will never leave my memory.''
He said he just wants to enjoy his weekend back in Seattle as much as he can.
``People have written a couple of things in the last couple of weeks about me shrugging it off,'' Griffey said. ``But you have to understand, I've had a job to do, wherever I was playing. I couldn't get ahead of myself until I actually got here. So once I landed and got off the plane I was able to relax ... and reflected on what it was like when I played here.
``I try to stay pretty much even keel. I try not to let it get to me. But it's exciting.''
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