MIAMI -- Ken Griffey Jr.'s 20-year climb to 600 home runs was filled with plenty of smiles. But it was also a torturous journey filled with pain, despair and a multitude of surgical procedures and rehabilitation efforts. His wife, Melissa, has been there next to him most of the way. She was among the 16,003 fans at Dolphin Stadium to watch her husband become one of only six Major Leaguers to hit 600 home runs. "It means a lot. As you know, we've been through a lot," she said. "It just makes it sweeter. It makes all the struggles that he's been through worth it."
A Seattle native, Melissa met Ken early in his big league playing days with the Mariners. They have three children, 14-year-old Trey, 12-year-old Taryn and six-year-old Tevin.
Melissa and the kids were in Cincinnati when Ken hit career homer No. 599 at Great American Ball Park on May 31 vs. the Braves. But with the kids needing to go back to school, everyone headed home to Orlando, Fla., while the Reds started an eight-game road trip with four games at Philadelphia.
A sore left knee kept Griffey out of the lineup the first three games and limited him to a pair of pinch-hitting appearances. In the ninth inning against the Phillies on Thursday, he smoked a pitch to the center-field wall that was caught only a few feet from the fence.
It was so close, but Melissa didn't mind that Ken came up short.
"I told him it was sweet that he waited for us," Melissa joked. "Because the kids were in school, we couldn't really travel a lot. It was really special. I'm glad we were here. If we would have missed it, it would have been upsetting."
Griffey was traded from Seattle to Cincinnati before the 2000 season. That's where "The Kid" endured a majority of his career-threatening injuries. He missed more than 450 games the past seven seasons.
There was the torn left hamstring in '01, a torn knee tendon and the torn right hamstring in '02, the dislocated right shoulder in '03 and the torn ankle tendon, also in '03. There was a second torn hamstring in '04, where the muscle had to be reattached to the bone with screws during an innovative surgery.
Through it all, Melissa went through the hardships with him.
"It's been terrible. It's very sad," she said. "He's come back from some amazing things."
When Griffey crossed home plate after his homer off Marlins lefty Mark Hendrickson, he quickly waved to Melissa and other members of the family.
"I know where they are at all times," said Griffey, a devoted family man.
Somewhere in the ballpark, Ken Griffey Sr. was also watching the game. Griffey Sr., who hit 152 home runs in his big league career, arrived in town on Sunday to watch his son.
"Having my Dad play this game, he just told me as a kid, 'Don't get too high, don't get too low,'" Griffey Jr. said. "That's the one thing I take pride from. I don't snap. I don't throw things. I say 'OK, get them next time. Coming home, I didn't know if he went 4-for-4 or 0-for-4. When I leave the ballpark, I have to be a dad."
Griffey didn't have to look far to find Trey. He spent all four games of the Reds-Marlins series wearing one of his father's uniforms on the bench. When his father got to the dugout after his homer, he gave him a hug.
"It was cool," Trey said.
"It meant a lot," Griffey Jr. added. "I think everybody knows I'm more excited about what Trey does than what I do. To have him in there, it means a lot to me."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.