Perhaps it’s fitting that Shawn O’Malley, born and raised in the Tri-Cities and who grew up watching Ken Griffey Jr., had one of his best games on the night Griffey was honored by having his No. 24 jersey retired
When the best player in franchise history and a recent Hall of Fame inductee is being honored, and he takes time from his speech to turn to you and say, “Keep fighting ’cause we are all rooting for you,” there really is no other option but to do so.
“You never want to die or quit and all that stuff, but when there’s 40-plus thousand fans in the stands wearing Griffey shirts, you better not quit,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “And we certainly weren’t going to do that tonight.”
Perhaps it’s appropriate that the kid born and raised in the Tri-Cities, who grew up watching Ken Griffey Jr., and admittedly still gets “starstruck” in his presence, delivered the biggest hit in Seattle’s 8-6 comeback victory over the Angels on Saturday night.
L.A. Angels @ Mariners, 1:10 p.m., ROOT Sports
Shawn O’Malley didn’t quite have the Griffey swing and follow through or the strut around the bases, but he provided the loudest in-game roar from the sold-out crowd of 45,618 by blasting the game-deciding, three-run homer in the seventh to complete a four-run inning and a rally from a 6-2 fourth-inning deficit.
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Facing reliever Deolis Guerra, O’Malley turned on a 91 mph fastball to send a high drive past right field.
It was just O’Malley’s third homer of his career, but his second in three games. He hit his first homer of the season Wednesday. To provide such a hit on a night honoring his childhood hero is a memory he won’t forget.
“I grew up watching Griffey and it was amazing to watch (the pregame ceremony retiring jersey No. 24), and to end it like that just seemed fitting,” O’Malley said.
He was one of several players, sporting backward hats, to acknowledge Griffey from the dugout when he offered the encouraging words before the game.
“It was awesome,” O’Malley said. “It’s one of the greatest players to ever play the game and he’s telling you to keep fighting.”
After squandering a bases-loaded opportunity as only they can in the sixth, the Mariners didn’t waste another chance in the seventh.
Down 6-4, Seattle loaded the bases against Guerra with three consecutive one-out walks. Leonys Martin narrowed the deficit to one run, lining out to deep left, which allowed Adam Lind to score.
It set up O’Malley’s big at-bat. After being designated for assignment by the Angels following the 2014 season, O’Malley chose to sign a minor-league deal with the Mariners, spurning multiple offers and choosing to play close to home. He’s become a valuable contributor to a team racked by injuries.
“He believes he’s a big-league player,” Servais said. “And I think you are seeing it. It’s great getting more out of guys than you are expecting.”
The crowd gave O’Malley a standing ovation following his home run. The fans were on their feet for O’Malley again in the top of the eighth when he made a tough backhand stop at shortstop on Andrelton Simmons’ ground ball deep in the hole and fired to first to get the out.
The pregame chants of “Griffey! Griffey!” were replaced by “O’Malley! O’Malley!”
“Not in my wildest dreams,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to miss. It was really loud. That was really special, really cool. I’ve never had anything like that. Thank you to the fans for doing that.”
“There was a feeling, an excitement in the ballpark tonight,” Servais said. “Our players felt it. It started with Griffey addressing our team in his speech. It meant a lot to our guys. I know it did to me.”