COOPERSTOWN, NY — When it comes to baseball heaven, there is no place quite like this out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere town that, for one weekend of every year, steals the spotlight from the various Major League pennant races.
And, for the first time in their 39-year history, the Mariners were front-and-center this past weekend as Ken Griffey Jr. was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, becoming not only the first No. 1 selection in the Major League draft to be enshrined, but the first to go in as a Mariner.
It seems like ages ago that a 17-year-old kid drove his black BMW into the Tempe Diablo Stadium parking lot the day before spring training started, and asked me if I knew the phone number for the main office at the facility. I remember suggesting that he should just walk up the ramp, turn right and he would find the office.
Two years later, Junior was playing his first Major League regular season game — the 1989 season opener in Oakland, where he came to bat in the first inning off A’s ace Dave Stewart and drilled a double into the left-center field gap. A star was born and almost 20 years later, Griffey had solidified himself as a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Of the 440 Baseball Writers Association of America members who voted for the Class of 2016, only three did not vote for him — a record-setting 99.3 percent plurality.
Thanks to our long-time association with MLB, and the Hall of Fame, Golferswest.com co-founder Bob Sherwin and I to attend the Induction ceremonies and secured media passes for the three-day extravaganza.
Except for a little glitch with Southwest Airlines, which had its computer system go out while I was changing planes in Baltimore (causing a three-hour delay), the trip went off without a hitch.
As a golf website, we naturally had to play a round, which we did at Cobleskill Golf & Country Club, located almost halfway between Albany, N.Y, the nearest major airport, and Cooperstown.
Here are some photos of the journey: