Kelsey Klevenberg was in a business meeting when he noticed an act of heresy across the street. A man was trying to snap the bat off the Ken Griffey Jr. statue at Safeco Field. Klevenberg “booked out, took the elevator and started running.”

Share story

“I’ve been punched before, but I’ve never been hit by a bronze bat.”

Kelsey Klevenberg admits that thought crossed his mind amid his heroics Tuesday. He wasn’t sure what his fate would be as he sprinted through the Sodo streets, but he knew he had a civic duty.

A few minutes earlier, he was in a business meeting on the fifth floor of the KING 5 building when he noticed an act of heresy across the street. A man was trying to snap the bat off the Ken Griffey Jr. statue at Safeco Field.

Besides tossing compost into the recycling bin, there might be no greater Seattle sin than vandalizing The Kid. He is the city’s greatest sports icon and the player Kelsey idolized growing up in Missoula, Mont.

So when it became clear none of the dozen or so people ambling by the stadium were going to do anything, Klevenberg anointed himself the statue savior. Or better yet, the bat man.

“My boss and I looked at one another and waited for Safeco security to swarm, but then he started to get away,” said the 35-year-old Klevenberg, who works as the director of inside sales at Zipwhip. “I was like ‘this isn’t happening.’ That’s when I booked out, took the elevator and started running.”

The first thing he did when he got outside the building was call co-worker Erin Hill to have her serve as a spotter. The second thing he did was call 911, where he described the situation in the midst of a full-on sprint.

“Do you know where the Griffey statue is?!” he asked the operator, who did not know where it was. “First and Royal Brougham! How do you not know?!?!”

Chasing down thieves in Sodo is not without its challenges. The thought of getting bludgeoned by a vandal wasn’t going to stop Klevenberg, but a red light at the intersection did.

Anyone who has been in that area midday knows the average vehicle passing through weighs about 30 tons. As Klevenberg said: “I wasn’t about to jaywalk in front of a semi.”

Fortunately for Klevenberg, the perp was only semi in control of his body. Bourbon Street drunk, he threw the bat in a garbage can and fell to the ground on Royal Brougham Way.

In Klevenberg’s words, “he kind of apprehended himself.” The cops showed up and arrested the suspect.

When Klevenberg returned to the offices at Zipwhip — a company that enables texting to and from landlines — he received thunderous applause from his colleagues. He has since been on an array of morning radio and television programs, all the while receiving tweets such as “which street should we block off for the parade in your honor?”

Even better, the Zipwhip marketing team released a trailer for a movie in which Klevenberg stars alongside Jennifer Lawrence and Al Pacino. Its title? “The Savior’s Savior.”

But perhaps the greatest tribute came from his father, Kim. Kim is a lifelong Mariners fan who has spent his career as a railroader. And considering he is borderline allergic to technology, he didn’t read any of the internet stories describing Kelsey’s feat. But when his wife, Starla, gave him the CliffsNotes version of how their boy saved the statue of Seattle’s most transcendent figure, Kim verbalized what the entire city already knew.

“Our son is a hero.”

Klevenberg doesn’t quite see it that way. He has long preached the idea of taking ownership and responsibility to his sales team and feels those principles should extend to the community. He also admits to having been a bystander in past situations when he could have helped.

Not this time, though. Tracking down that bat wasn’t a “should do” in his mind, it was a “must do.”

But that doesn’t mean Klevenberg isn’t enjoying his newfound celebrity. He joked he is going to give two weeks’ notice and move to L.A. to film commercials.

“I’m on a gravy train with biscuit wheels,” he said.

So what’s next?

The bat still hasn’t been reaffixed to Griffey’s hand, but the statue’s artist, Lou Cella, is confident it can be done without altering the original look. Klevenberg wonders if he could help put the finishing touches on the repair — perhaps a sandpaper stroke.

He’s earned it. From the minute he started running, Klevenberg’s goal was to restore that statue. Might as well let him finish what he started.

(Randall Polliard / The Seattle Times)
(Randall Polliard / The Seattle Times)