PEORIA, Ariz. -- A Hall of Fame outfielder apparently played a key role in Ken Griffey Jr.'s decision to sign with the Mariners. A telephone conversation with Willie Mays on Wednesday morning helped Junior decide that he was better off returning to the team that he grew up with, rather than the closer-to-home Braves, who have their Spring Training in Orlando, about 20 minutes from Griffey's home. Mariners president Chuck Armstrong told MLB.com on Wednesday night he received a phone call from former Mariners infielder and MLB Network broadcaster Harold Reynolds on Tuesday, asking the club executive if he would mind calling Mays, who wanted to talk to Griffey but not if it would be an imposition.
Armstrong jumped at the opportunity to talk to arguably the greatest player in baseball history, placed a call to Mays, and the wheels to Griffey's return to the Northwest hit the ground running. "Willie said he didn't want to impose, but he explained why he thought Ken needed to come back to Seattle," Armstrong told MLB.com from his Seattle-area home. "He asked if it was OK for him to call Junior. Willie talked about the legacy aspect of it and how it was for him when he went from the Giants to the Mets at the end of his career. "He couldn't have been nicer about it. I told him, 'Willie, you are the reason Junior wore No. 24 in Seattle.'" Mays called Griffey on Wednesday morning and apparently hit a home run. "We can't thank Harold and Willie enough for what they did," Armstrong said.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.