THE CLASS OF 2019
Ken Griffey Jr.
Ken Griffey Jr., known as “Junior” and “The Kid,” became “The One” to watch during Cactus League action.
Bursting onto the Major League scene at age 19, Griffey Jr.’s bat and glove catapulted him to a career that was a throwback to an era of players who could do it all – hit, run and field.
He spent 14 of his 22-year Major League career in the Cactus League. From 1989- 1999 he played with the Mariners, in 2008 with the Chicago White Sox and 2009-2010 again with the Mariners.
A 13-time All-Star, Griffey Jr. was one of the most prolific Home Run hitters in baseball history. He won 10 straight Gold Gloves, 7 Silver Slugger awards, and the American League’s MVP in 1997.
When he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 2016, his first year of eligibility, he received the highest percentage of votes in the Hall’s history – 99.32 percent.
Ferguson “Fergie” Jenkins
One of Major League Baseball’s greatest and most dominant pitchers of all-time, On a roster filled with diversity and a drive to win, Ferguson “Fergie” Jenkins was a key member of the Chicago Cubs from 1966 -1973.
Fine-tuning his pitching trade in Arizona’s Cactus League, the 1971 Cy Young Award winner and three-time All-Star, attributed a big part of his successful career to training in Arizona’s warm temperatures.
During his 19-year Major League career, Jenkins spent 10 of them in the Cactus League: 1967 to 1973 at the original Scottsdale Stadium, and 1982 to 1983 at the then-new Hohokam Stadium in Mesa.
His 284 career wins, 3,192 strikeouts, 3.34 Earned Run Average, and 267 complete games out of 664 appearances are just part of his legacy.
In retirement, Jenkins continues to go the distance as a strong presence and great ambassador for baseball during Cactus League seasons.
The keeper of one of baseball’s grand traditions, Bobby Freeman has provided the soundtrack to baseball in Arizona since making his professional debut with the San Francisco Giants AAA Pacific Coast League affiliate, Phoenix Firebirds at Phoenix Municipal Stadium in 1989.
Freeman ushered in the inaugural Arizona Fall League season in 1993 and began his long-standing Cactus League affiliation with the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners at the new Peoria Stadium in 1994.
The Official Organist of the Arizona Diamondbacks since the inaugural season of 1998, Freeman also played at the team’s Tucson Electric Park spring training site during the team’s 13 Cactus League seasons and played for the grand openings of the Chicago Cubs new HoHoKam Park in Mesa, the Milwaukee Brewers Maryvale Baseball Park, and the Cleveland Indians/Cincinnati Reds Goodyear Ballpark.
Freeman has preserved the art of the ballpark organist for more than a generation and has been the Official Organist for the Arizona Diamondbacks at the team’s Salt River Fields ballpark since its opening in 2011.
Major League executive Roland Hemond is revered for his kindness and generosity of spirit as much as his baseball acumen. He has served as a mentor to multiple generations of future baseball executives.
Hemond was the first recipient of the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Buck O’Neil Award in 2011. This is an award presented to individuals whose extraordinary efforts enhanced baseball’s positive impact on society and broadened the game’s appeal.
Hemond’s 70 year career includes working as general manager for the Chicago White Sox (1970 -1985) and the Baltimore Orioles (1988 – 1995). He also worked in executive offices for five different teams.
Roland Hemond’s further accomplishments include earning World Series rings with Milwaukee in 1957, the Diamondbacks in 2001 and the White Sox in 2005.
A constant presence in the Cactus League, Roland has also been credited with creating the Arizona Fall League.
Teenage phenom Robin Yount made his big league debut with the Milwaukee Brewers at the age of 18 on Opening Day in 1974 and never wore another team’s uniform for the duration of his 20-year career. He is the franchise leader in at-bats, hits, singles, doubles, triples, walks, RBI and total bases.
Nicknamed “The Kid”, Yount played the game with a boyish enthusiasm, but immediately proved himself a peer among men anchoring the shortstop position for 11 years before moving to the outfield for the second half of his career. He is one of only four players to win his league’s MVP award at two positions; at shortstop for the Brewer’s American League champion team in 1982, and center field in 1989.
A three-time All-Star and Silver Slugger Award winner, Yount received the Gold Glove Award at shortstop in 1982. The last major leaguer to have been a teammate of Hank Aaron, Yount spent all 20 of his spring training seasons with the Brewers in Arizona. His number 19 was retired by the Milwaukee franchise one year after he announced his retirement in 1993 and he was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1999.