CINCINNATI — There is a circular red, white and blue plaque next to Jay Bruce’s locker with ‘Griffey’ on it and the ‘Swingman’ logo.
‘Swingman’ is the Nike trademark for Ken Griffey Jr. gear and for there last three years Bruce has worn that gear — shoes, shirts, batting gloves.
There is probably no bigger fan of Griffey than Bruce and he is probably more excited about Junior’s Hall of Fame induction Sunday than Griffey himself. Of the gear, Bruce said Griffey asked him if he’d like to wear it and he said “It was a no-brainer, a great honor, actually.
“The first time I ever walked into this clubhouse when I was 18 Griffey was sitting right here on his big black trunk and a couple of years later I was playing center field and he was playing right,” said Bruce. “Now I’m standing right here where he stood and I’m using the locker he used. I’ve been through a lot here. I’ve had the best moments of my life.”
BRUCE ONLY PLAYED with Griffey at the tail of Griffey’s career when age and injuries caught up with him.
“But it was unbelievable,” said Bruce. “You still saw flashes of his brilliance even when he was 36 or 37 and not 100 per cent of what he used to be. He still had some of the most crazy ability and natural instincts that I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t even a dream come true to play with him because I couldn’t even have dreamed about that.
“There are so many things about him that I remember and above all else he is a friend,” Bruce added. “He is a very, very good person and I enjoyed hanging out and staying in touch. And these days it isn’t even about baseball. It is life stuff and family we talk about.
“Unfortunately, he left here with a bad taste in his mouth. He was not treated very well by some of the fans. They should have considered how fortunate they were to have Ken Griffey Jr. wear a Cincinnati Reds uniform,” said Bruce.
GRIFFEY, OF COURSE, LEFT the Reds via trade before he retired and now it looks as if Bruce will go the same route before next week’s trade deadline.
“This has been 365 days straight, or more than that, that I’m getting traded,” he said. “It hasn’t happened yet, even though there has been plenty written, said and typed about it. I am standing here, waiting to see.”
Bruce has handled the tumult and the torture and the trauma with typical dignity, even though he admits there are times it is challenging.
“I try my best to manage it and do a fairly solid job of it,” he said. “But at the end of the day, man, it starts to creep in. It is a tough situation, a tough situation for the Reds. They have to do what they can to better the organization, but I’m a human being. Over the next 10 days I may be here and I may be somewhere else. At this point, it has gone on a long, long, long time. Whatever happens I’ll just go play here or elsewhere. I know this could be my last series in a Reds uniform and that’s something I can’t even believe.”
THERE ARE MANY THINGS Griffey and Bruce have in common, but the No. 1 trait is that both are solid personalities, great human beings and anybody who gets to know them realizes they are straight shooters and first class people.
Bruce said Griffey told him he has never been to the Hall of Fame and Bruce said he hasn’t been there, either. But he plans to tape Sunday’s ceremony and, “It will be so cool to watch.”