Ken Griffey Jr. said the deaths of Walter Payton and Payne Stewart triggered him to ask the Seattle Mariners to trade him to a team closer to his home in Florida.
He knew both the U.S. Open golf champion and the NFL's career rushing leader, but the death of Stewart was more shattering, Griffey said in an interview in Wednesday's editions of The Seattle Times.
"While my decision was mainly about family, this is what led to my final decision," Griffey was quoted as saying. "Payne missed the cut at Disney (a golf tournament in Orlando). On Saturday, he went to see his son play football his first football game and he caught a touchdown pass."
"On Monday, his wife and daughter kissed him goodbye. Forty-five minutes later, he's not there anymore."
Stewart, enjoying his best year on the PGA Tour with $2 million in earnings, died last week in a LearJet crash.
The accident drove home Griffey's desire to spend more time with his family.
"With our travel," Griffey said, "I play on one end of the country, and they live at the other end. I'd be flying all over the place. With Trey in school, it would even be tougher."
He said he drives Trey to school daily and wants to be able to see him play youth baseball. His own father, former major league outfielder Ken Griffey Sr., missed many of his youth games because of travel.
"I know people might ask about us moving to Orlando, but that's where we want to live," said Griffey, a 10-time All-Star. "Everyone should live where they want. If we stayed in Seattle, I'd only have the offseason to do things with Trey, and sometimes it gets so wet it's tough to do things."
Mariners officials said Tuesday they will try to arrange a trade. Griffey has veto power over any deal.
He said he informed the Mariners' newly hired general manager, Pat Gillick, when they met Monday.
"I had never even met Pat before," Griffey said. "He seemed like an all-right guy. I was only there for a few minutes and told them how I felt, and that was it. There was no yelling or screaming."
The Reds already have expressed interest in Griffey. He wouldn't say if he was interested in Cincinnati.
"So many things could jell or not on this trade," Griffey said. "They might not find a trade they like. They told me, `You may not find one you like. But if there is no trade, I'll be going to spring training with Seattle at my normal time. You don't have to worry about me. There's not going to be any distractions. It's not going to be that bad. You'll still see me, trade or not."
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