The results of the National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot will be announced on January 8th 2014. Among them will be Toronto Blue Jays alumni Fred “Crime Dog” McGriff. It will be his fifth time on the ballot.
While McGriff spent the late ‘80’s holding Toronto’s first base position, he rejoined the Blue Jays in 2013 as a Special Assistant to President Paul Beeston. McGriff handled many duties throughout the season including representing the Blue Jays at the 2013 MLB first year player draft.
He also spent the season visiting the affiliate clubs and watching the young players develop.
In fact, in June, the Lansing Lugnuts welcomed McGriff into their clubhouse to spend six games with the team and observe the Blue Jays Midwest League affiliate.
“I liked it in Lansing. They [had] a good young team that swung the bat well,” stated McGriff. “I have really been impressed with the pitching and the hitters are getting timely hits as well. It’s a good group of kids here.”
The players definitely appreciated the opportunity to meet and work with McGriff as well. Right-handed pitcher Arik Sikula really enjoyed the opportunity to meet one of his childhood idols.
“Having Fred McGriff here was unbelievable,” stated Sikula, “It was unreal talking to a guy you idolized growing up. We talked about hitting, pitching and his swing. You’re almost in awe when you first meet him and then you realize he’s one of us. He talks about girls, baseball, and basically the same things we all talk about. It was awesome meeting him and it’s hard to believe he’s not in the hall of fame.”
Another aspect McGriff liked about Lansing was the coaching staff. The 50-year old stated that manager John Tamargo Jr., pitching coach Vince Horsman, and hitting coach Kenny Graham all do a great job developing the players for higher levels of play.
“The coaching staff in Lansing are good, hardworking guys,” stated McGriff. “They get the kids out here at 2 o’clock and work them out. They practice on ground balls and defense every day.”
Blue Jays fans remember McGriff fondly as he broke into the Majors with the Blue Jays in 1986 and played for the team through the 1990 season. He was a key piece in the San Diego Padres trade that brought Joe Carter and hall of fame second baseman Roberto Alomar to Toronto.
Although McGriff broke in with Toronto he was actually drafted by the New York Yankees in the 9th round of the 1981 MLB draft and was traded in the minors. That was a moment he said was great for his career.
“I was drafted by the Yankees and I always had success against the Blue Jays when I was in their organization.” McGriff recalls, “The trade worked out well in my career as the Blue Jays were looking for help at first base and they traded for me. It was a great opportunity for me.”
McGriff spent 19 seasons in the major leagues as a member of the Blue Jays, Padres, Braves, Rays, Cubs and Dodgers. In his MLB career, McGriff batted .284 with 441 doubles, 24 triples 493 home runs and 1,550 RBIs. The former first baseman also averaged a little over a hit a game as he collected 2,490 hits in his 2,460 game career.
“I felt blessed every day I played in the major leagues. I exceeded all expectations of me and I’m thankful for that. Every place I played was a lot of fun,” the Florida native said.
McGriff further highlighted on how special Toronto was for him. “It was awesome. Great city, great people, and everybody were always good to me there. It was a positive experience playing in Toronto for sure.”
One of his favorite moments from his career was winning the 1995 World Series with the Atlanta Braves; an event he said took place because of great teammates that put it all together in the playoffs. “Winning a World Series was awesome. It was a team goal as baseball is a team game. We came together as a team in 1995 and won it all. It was an amazing feeling.”
Hopefully he can communicate those thoughts to the young Blue Jays prospects he mentors in the coming years. In the meantime, we at JaysProspects wish McGriff the best of luck with the upcoming Baseball Hall of Fame ballot announcement.
Hopefully there is a road trip to Cooperstown to honor him in the near future.