A tanned and relaxed Randy Johnson met with the media this afternoon, joking about how out of practice he has become since announcing his retirement in January.
“I think after I announced my retirement, just over a week or so later Chuck Armstrong reached out to Alan Nero,. my agent, and asked if I would be interested in throwing out the first pitch. I said sure. I was still in shape then. The answer was easy. Now I’m not so sure. Maybe we can find someone that’s 6-10 out in the street that’s got a good arm.”
Turns out Johnson’s arm is just fine. He entered the field from the door in right-center and strolled to the mound to a huge ovation, waving to the crowd all the way. When he got to the mound, he windmilled his left arm, holding his shoulder it as if it was sore. And then he waved to all sections of the field to another huge ovation. Appropriately, Dan Wilson came out to receive the pitch, reviving perhaps the greatest battery in franchise history. Johnson’s pitch was a strike, although if there was a radar gun, it might not have hit 60.
At that point, three more great Mariners trotted onto the field — Ken Griffey Jr., in uniform, as well as Jay Buhner and Edgar Martinez. The five shook hands, embraced, and posed for a picture. All in all, a stirring event.
Here are some other highlights from Johnson’s press conference:
“Who would have known…some of the reporters who covered me, would you have ever thought I was a candidate for 300 games? When it was in front of me, I felt I owed it to myself and everywhere I’ve been to try to do that.
“The bottom line is that after last year, and injuring my back and my shoulder, and my kids, two of them were born in Seattle, they’re teenagers now, I don’t want to miss any more than I already have. I’ve had a nice career. That’s the half of my life. Now I want to do other things and hopefully have as much fun along the way.”
“Seattle, obviously, professionally and personally, has always had a great deal of meaning. To be part of the history of this franchise at probably the biggest time of the franchise, when the team was floundering and possibly on its way out. Remember back to ’95, this team was looking at maybe being relocated to Florida. The team doing what it did, and the fans supporting us the way they did. That’s one reason this new stadium is here. To be a part of that, I look back and see all the memories. Some of the players I played with, I stayed in touch with a few. Scott Bradley, I just ran into Jay, had a few battles along the way with Junior. Edgar, I congratulated him with his name being on the ballot for Hall of Fame. It really says a lot about the players that were here at that time. It’s really unheard of to have that many talented players, like Omar Vizquel. I have a lot of positive memories, myself developing and being able to watch those players develop.”
“From a professional standpoint, I learned how to pitch (in Seattle). I was given the opportunity. This was a team until 95 hadn’t finished .500. So they had the flexibility to be able to let myself go out there and all the other pitchers win, lose or draw, and get back out there five days later.
“Back then, that was acceptable. Now, it’s like, the team’s gotta win now. There is not a lot of time to develop a pitcher at the major league level because everybody wants to win. So I kind of learned, as we all did, kind of on the fly. I learned how to pitch here essentially. I got the foundation of that and a lot of other teams got to benefit from that. I continued to go on and learn more in other areas, but for nine years or however long I was here, I really kind of learned how to pitch and came into my own.
“From a personal standpoint, I met my wife here and started my charity work here, some of it with Jay (Buhner) at Cystic Fibrosis. Some on my own with Striking out Homeless. Meeting people and friends that I still stay in touch with. The list would go on. Nine years of living here and playing here, there’s a lot that I’ve learned on the field and off. It’s been very instrumental.”
On 1995: “That was the first opportunity to be in postseason. That ranks right up there. I mean, not knowing what to expect. Obviously, I do vividly kind of remember the last game of the 95 season, we were in Arlington and we were boarding the plane and we were told that the California Angels had lost and we had the won that game. We had the same record and there was going to be a one game playoff in the Kingdome. The opportunity to pitch that game. I remember pitching against Mark. There’s a lot of memories here. Now I’m pitching against Mark Langston, the player I got traded for. This stuff is all pretty book-worthy or real bad movie worthy. If you think about it, to pitch a one-game playoff against Mark,m and the team goes on win the division and then we go the playoffs. No one in this franchise, nor I had ever experienced that. That was great stuff.”
There’s more, but I’m going to watch him throw out the first pitch.