Coles on Griffey: 'Best player I've ever seen'

Brewers hitting coach reflects on playing with Hall of Famer in Seattle

Coles on Griffey: 'Best player I've ever seen'

PITTSBURGH -- Brewers hitting coach Darnell Coles will be busy Sunday morning getting players ready for the finale of a three-game series against the Cubs. But if time allows, you can bet he will find a television tuned to MLB Network.

Ken Griffey Jr., a favorite teammate of Coles' with the Mariners in 1989 and '90, will be inducted along with Mike Piazza in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Coles witnessed the beginning of Griffey's greatness firsthand.

"It started with him doing this," said Coles, spinning his cap around backward. "He knew what he represented as far as the way his dad played, and where he came from meant a great deal. He meant so much to two cities. But within all of that, he was the most generous person you were ever going to meet."

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Coles, as he usually does, offered an anecdote.

"I talked to him one Christmas, just catching up," Coles said. "I was coaching a high school team at the time; Countryside High School in Clearwater, Fla., and Griffey learns this and says, 'Do me a favor. I want you to send me the sizes of everybody there. Coaches, players, everybody.'

"He outfitted everybody. He sent 40 pairs of shoes; practice shoes and game shoes. He sent batting gloves. He set up that whole team. And he said, 'As long as you're there, if you ever want or need anything, ask.' Not that I had ever asked in the first place. It was just the way he was."

On the field, Griffey made 13 All-Star teams, won 10 Gold Gloves, was the unanimous American League MVP in 1997 and hit 630 home runs, good for sixth on the all-time list. He was named on 99.3 percent of the Hall of Fame ballots, breaking Tom Seaver's record for highest percentage (98.84).

"There was not a thing he did in the game of baseball that surprised me," Coles said. "He was just that good, and the end result is being inducted to the Hall of Fame. I won't be able to get there, but I wish I was, because he's special. I played with Barry Bonds and some other great players, but when you're talking about the total package, I don't think there's any doubt that Griffey is the best player I've ever seen."

On Sunday, he'll be enshrined among the other greats in Cooperstown.

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.