Thursday, September 27, 2001

Fallen firefighter hits home for Junior

By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        PHILADELPHIA — Ken Griffey Jr. made a special trip home to Orlando, Fla., Tuesday night. He traveled light, save for the heavy dose of perspective he was carrying.

        Griffey went home for “Donuts with Dads” day at his daughter, Taryn's, kindergarten.

        “I'm the father in the household,” he said. “I like to be there for special occasions. That I was able to — that puts it in perspective. Another guy who had a family isn't going home at all.”

        Griffey was referring to Kenny Marino, a firefighter who is missing in the aftermath of the Sept.11 terrorist attacks in New York. Marino's wife, Katrina, e-mailed the Reds asking if Griffey could hit a home run for her husband.

        Griffey did in Tuesday night's 8-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.

        “All we do is hit a baseball,” Griffey said. “We don't change lives.”

        Well, maybe in the case of Tuesday's home run, just a little.

        “I was in the city (Tuesday) filling out forms — Social Security, insurance — that you never want to fill out,” said Katrina Marino, from her home in Monroe, N.Y., Wednesday. “When I got home, I got the e-mail saying (Griffey) had hit a home run. I was so excited. I knew Kenny was very happy somewhere.”

        Kenny Marino, of Rescue 1, just turned 40 years old. He had a 3-year-old daughter, Kristin Marie, and a 1-year-old son, Tyler Kenneth.

        A story about the naming of his son shows how big a Griffey fan Marino was.

        “When we were picking out names,” Katrina said, “he wanted to name him Ken — not as his namesake — but so people would call him Ken Jr. I know that sounds awful. But that's the way he was.”

        Katrina was sitting at her husband's desk as she spoke.

        “He's got a Ken Griffey Jr. penholder, a Ken Griffey Jr. Pinnacle card, the Ken Griffey Jr. bobblehead from Seattle,” she said. “In our bedroom, there's two pictures on the wall: our daughter, and Ken Griffey Jr.”

        Marino made a trip to Seattle to see Griffey play there.

        “He got close enough to see (Griffey) and give him an NYFD (New York Fire Department) T-shirt for his son,” Katrina said.

        Said Griffey: “Oh my God, I remember that. I still have the shirt.”

        Griffey and Marino would seem like completely different people. Griffey is a famous 31-year-old superstar millionaire. Marino was a 40-year-old everyman struggling to make a living.

        But they had one thing in common: love for their children.

        That's why Griffey owns a share of a jet. He often goes home on off-days.

        “I went to Trey's first football practice,” he said of his son. “Things like that.”

        Tuesday was important to Taryn, so Griffey got permission from manager Bob Boone to go home. He and his friend, Frank King, and two pilots were the only ones on the plane for the 1 1/2-hour flight.

        Seems like a lot of trouble to eat Krispy Kremes with your little girl. But Katrina Marino said her husband would have understood. She was in New York City on Sept.11 Kenny insisted she bring the kids to the firehouse. He had worked an overnighter, so he wanted to see them.

        “So we went by the fire station,” she said. “We got there about quarter of 8 in the morning and stayed until 8:10. He kissed us all goodbye.

        “We'll always have that moment.”

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