Black History Month: Former NFL safety Brock Vereen remembers the MLB’s

Ken Griffey-Jr-editorial Black History Month
Greg Dubois/CBS Sports

Baseball was Brock Vereen’s favorite sport as a child in the 1990s, but the former NFL safety feels the game didn’t always welcome him. One Hall of Famer’s emergence changed that.

Vereen says Ken Griffey Jr. is the Black athlete who inspired him most, and Griffey Jr.’s influence ran much deeper than his picture-perfect swing.

“As a young Black kid, you look at baseball – especially in the ’90s – and you don’t feel welcome at some aspects of it,” said Vereen, a Big Ten Network analyst. “But Ken Griffey Jr. was the coolest player with the backwards hat he had, the most beautiful swing to this day. And while I would argue an issue with baseball to this day is the approachability of it, back then I never felt more at home than watching Ken Griffey Jr. and trying to mimic everything that he did on the field.”

Everything is the key word, as Griffey Jr. did exactly that for over two decades in the MLB. Griffey Jr. won an MVP, made 13 All-Star teams and earned 10 Gold Gloves and seven Silver Sluggers over his 22 seasons with the Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox. A 2016 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, Griffey Jr. has the seventh most home runs (630) in MLB history and the eighth most extra-base hits (1,192).

More than the numbers, though, Griffey Jr.’s effortlessly cool demeanor and style made him an inspiration to Vereen and countless other young fans.

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