Ken Griffey Jr.: The Modern Day Willie Mays

Michael AkelsonCorrespondent IMarch 29, 2010

What is a baseball player?

Ichiro Suzuki is a baseball player. Barry Bonds is a disappointment.

Derek Jeter is a baseball player. Alex Rodriguez is a bag of money with legs.

Ken Griffey Jr., however, is what all baseball players should aspire to be.

Watching Griffey play is a thrill greater then playing yourself, sound familiar?

Was there any greater feeling then watching Willie Mays play baseball?

Was there any greater feeling then seeing Ken Griffey Jr. play baseball in his prime?

Baseball has changed a great deal since Willie Mays left and I can't say that this change has been for the better.

Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez. These men were all supposed to save baseball, but they did nothing but bring more disappointment.

Throughout this era best known as the steroid era, few men have given us reason to hope baseball will ever be what it once was.

Ken Griffey Jr. is one of those few.

"The Kid" played defense in center field that made us all smile. You know who else did? I'll give you a hint, it rhymes with Billie Ways.

Griffey had immense power in his prime that gave more then a few lucky fans souvenirs. You know who else did? Willie Mays.

However, the similarities between these two men goes well beyond these few characteristics.

"The Say-Hey Kid" and "The Kid" both bring out the kid in each and every one of us that watch them play, and is there any greater joy?

I mean how many guys can make you smile when they're out on the field robbing your favorite team's players of hits.

I don't know many.

Defense is nearly a lost art in today's game. However you wouldn't know it from watching Griffey play.

Both these men are members of the exclusive 600 Home Run Club, and both had legitimate shots at breaking the Home Run record.

If military service hadn't taken two years from Mays in his prime who knows just how many homers he could have hit.

If injuries hadn't plagued Griffey throughout his prime then maybe, just maybe, the darkest era in the history of sports could have had one bright moment.

One thing is for sure, Willie Mays and Ken Griffey Jr. are what baseball is all about.

Baseball is about enjoying yourself and nobody enjoyed themselves quite like Ken Griffey Jr. and Willie Mays.

Love them or Hate them (as impossible as it sounds), Ken Griffey Jr. and Willie Mays are two of the only constants in a sport with so many variables.

Ken Griffey Jr. and Willie Mays are role models, and they remind us what baseball is about, because so many of us have forgotten.

As Griffey nears retirement, we should all take advantage of this last opportunity to watch him play because I promise you a player like this may not come around for the next 40 years. And who wants to wait for Hailey's comet to return anyway?