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04/07/09 1:33 AM ET
Griffey ties mark for Opening Day homers
No. 612 also his eighth in openers, equaling F. Robinson
By Jim Street / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- The last time Ken Griffey Jr. played an Opening Day game with the Mariners, he hit a home run and moved within one of tying a Major League record held by Hall of Famer Frank Robinson. That was 10 years ago. Since then, Griffey and his wife, Melissa, adopted a newborn, named him Tevin, and Robinson became the godfather. On Monday night at the Metrodome, Griffey finally caught Robby. "It is quite an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as Frank," Griffey said after hitting his record-tying eighth Opening Day home run during the Mariners' 6-1 victory over the Twins before a sellout crowd of 48,514. It was Junior's first Opening Day blast since he started the 1999 season -- his last with Seattle until now -- against White Sox right-hander James Baldwin. "I can call Frank and get all over him, or he will call me," Griffey joked after the game. The home run off Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano on a 2-and-2 pitch clanged off the blue seats above the blue baggy in right field. It wasn't one of Junior's most majestic blasts, perhaps, but No. 612 of his career, and No. 399 as a Mariner, gave Seattle its second run of the game. But the part he played in the Mariners' first run of the season might have been even more impressive. He came to bat in the second inning of a scoreless game immediately after third baseman Adrian Beltre drilled a leadoff double to right field. "You had two of the best young pitchers going against each other out there and I did what I was supposed to do," Griffey said, referring to teammate Felix Hernandez and Liriano. "It was a matter of trying to execute in a certain situation." His job was to move Beltre to third base. And that he did, grounding a ball to second base. Jose Lopez followed with a sacrifice fly to left field and the Mariners had a lead they would never relinquish. "My job was to get him over, and I was able to do that," Griffey said. Griffey said the season opener "was a lot of fun" and he "really enjoyed running around the bases" after hitting the home run. "It's just one game," he added, "but the first win is really good when you have a first-time general manager and first-time manager. I'm excited for them" -- GM Jack Zduriencik and skipper Don Wakamatsu. "This was fun. If you don't enjoy baseball, you shouldn't play. I enjoy baseball and I can't think of anything I would rather be doing. I wish I could have this much fun every day."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.