TDBH: Bengals assist The Kid on his way to Cooperstown

Posted Apr 15, 2018

This Day in Bengals History - April 16, 2002

There isn't an eclipse or anything, but for nearly an hour today two potential Hall-of-Famers in football and baseball share Paul Brown Stadium.  As Pro Bowl running back Corey Dillon takes a break in his daily workout, he greets Reds center-fielder Ken Griffey Jr. on his way to use the hydrotherapy equipment in the Bengals' training room.  Bengals President Mike Brown, a Reds' fan who keeps up with the team daily, is glad to hear his underwater treadmill is making waves for The Cincinnati Kid.  "His medical people thought our pool could help," Brown says today of Griffey's knee injury. "Anything we can do to help him get back on the field, I'm glad to do it."  Dillon, drafted by the San Diego Padres out of high school, observes, "I could outhit Ken, but I wouldn't tell him that." Dillon is kidding, but Griffey has some serious business to handle as he recovers from a partially torn patella tendon. With the Bengals implementing the "Good Neighbor Policy," Griffey works for nearly an hour on the treadmill in a pool under the supervision of Reds therapist Lonnie Soloff.

"Nice machine. Why don't we get one?" asks Griffey, one of the great locker-room needlers of all-time who has Soloff in his sights. Told there’ll be a similar one in the Reds' new ballpark next year he says, "We can put one in right now in three days with the right pipes. They put a pool in my house in eight days."  Griffey is kidding, too, but he appreciates the assist from the other team. Some Bengals raise their eyebrows when they see him, recalling how Griffey rips the Bengals last summer. But bygones are bygones today. "Of all the new equipment we have, this aquatic treadmill is, without question, the most versatile and probably the most valuable thing we have," says Bengals trainer Paul Sparling, who takes the initial request from his Cinergy Field counterpart, Reds trainer Greg Lynn.  "You get guys using weight-bearing parts sooner in the water because the buoyancy in the water reduces the amount of weight on the lower extremities."

Some Bengals are surprised the man chasing the all-time home-run record is built like a defensive back at 6-3, 205 pounds. They take time to say hello. Wide receiver Peter Warrick leans into the pool to shake hands and Griffey reminisces with Bengals director of pro/college personnel Jim Lippincott and cornerback Rodney Heath via Mount Healthy High School.  Lippincott, the Moeller High School athletic director when Griffey plays football and baseball in Kenwood, gets a full scouting report when he asks about his two children. Trey Griffey is eight and is apparently a handful at running back. But he’ll end up playing wide receiver at the University of Arizona and though he’ll be undrafted 15 years later he’ll get a shot with the dreaded Steelers, "My daughter is six, but she wants to be the quarterback," Griffey says. Lippincott has to go upstairs to a draft meeting, where Brown jokes, and “He still wants us to draft Griffey because he still says he's the best high school receiver he saw."

Griffey mixes easily in the football training room. He relates some stories about his Orlando, Fla., neighbor to a Tiger Woods fan, recalling a round he played with the three-time Masters champion. Woods, it seems, put down a cheeseburger to hit a drive 330 yards with ketchup dripping down his arm.  When he sees Heath riding the exercise bicycle, Griffey tells him, "Hey, Tour de France, give me a call." But it is Griffey who is the Tour de Force. The Kid goes into the Hall even before his kid's senior year at Tucson. Dillon still waits.

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