CINCINNATI -- Ken Griffey Jr. has been known as "Junior" and "The Kid." Could "Ambassador Griffey" be next? On Friday, Griffey took off early from Spring Training and went to Washington, D.C., with his family to meet Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. The 38-year-old said he will be a special ambassador to promote baseball and other interests in foreign lands.
The meeting between Griffey and Rice came through the Reds right fielder's friendship with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, President George W. Bush's brother. Griffey and Jeb Bush came up with the idea one day months ago while on the golf course. Griffey met with Rice at her offices near the White House. Even though he's met three different presidents, it was Rice who impressed him the most. "I think I was the most nervous I've been before meeting somebody," Griffey said Monday. "Nobody walked in or out without somebody following them. You see about 40 people with guns." The meeting was supposed to last 20 minutes but stretched another hour longer. Topics ranged from baseball to University of Alabama football in Rice's home state. "She said, 'We didn't have a professional team, so I was a Cleveland fan," Griffey said. "That wouldn't go over real well in Cincinnati. She talked to [my 12-year-old daughter] Taryn for 40 minutes pretty much about piano and just being a little girl and how she grew up." Rice plans to have Griffey travel abroad during the offseason. It's possible he could go to the Philippines, but his locales have yet to be determined. The position has no expiration date, even though the Bush administration will end in January 2009.
"We'll have to figure that out," Griffey said. "They gave me a couple of suggestions of where they want me to go."Of course, baseball remains front and center for Griffey. Monday marked his 20th Opening Day in the Major Leagues. He entered the day with 593 career home runs and has resumed his pursuit of 600 career homers. Does it feel like his 20th opener? "No, not at all," Griffey said. "It's one of those days you wake up and it hits you that this is your 20th big league year and 21st professional season. Or 22nd? You lose track after a while." For the record, it's his 22nd.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.