Ken Griffey Jr. is still an enigma

Ken Griffey Jr. can be charming and engaging when he wants to be. AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Whenever I get a chance to talk with journalism students, eventually the conversation always seem to circle around to player participation with the media, stories from the trenches, and I wind up talking about Ken Griffey Jr. And, after his awkward, cringe-worthy effort on a live "SportsCenter" Wednesday -- when Linda Cohn was a total pro -- I'm sure his name will come up again in the future.

I really don't know him that well, interviewing him some in the 1990s -- I was there when he shattered his wrist in '95 with this incredible catch, and talked to him as part of groups in spring training and All-Star Games. More than a decade ago, as a writer at the New York Times, I went to Cincinnati to do a story on him, an experience that provided further insight into his personality. For more than an hour, I watched him laugh with the teenagers who worked in the clubhouse, the athletic trainers, teammates. The rapport clearly was sincere, and deep, and Griffey could not have been better with the people around him.

Then, when the anointed hour came for us to speak, he reached over and looked at the press credential that dangled from my neck, and flipped it dismissively with a "pfffft." The interview process was as easy as a tooth extraction.

There was nothing personal about this.