Sunday, March 09, 2008
A Few Minutes With Nick Johnson
How fitting that Our Chat With Nick Johnson posts up immediately after Austin Kearns on The Nats320 Blog. These two baseball players will--for the time being--be linked together. That frightful accident on September 23rd, 2006 was one of the worst moments in sports--that we have ever witnessed. Never before--had we wished any baseball game--not to finish. That afternoon--we yearned Our Washington Nationals had never even played a ballgame. Because, the sight of Our Starting First Baseman--not only in great pain, but crying--was almost too hard to take. An unfortunate accident involving players that always give their all--now left Our Starting First Baseman's budding career in doubt .
And when Our Number 24 did not recover in time for the 2007 Season--the naysayers started circling. The vultures had their eyes set on their prey. As far as these critics were concerned--Nick Johnson's career was over. Time to move on to someone else.
Thankfully, that's not the case--at least not yet. Through a tremendous amount of perseverance, self doubt--and some serious rehabilitation--Nick is finally back on the baseball diamond--ready to play. Some might say--he was Our Washington Nationals best all-around player during to the first two seasons of baseball's return to Washington. Most everyone would say: "That man's a gamer." Yes, Nick Johnson gave his all on each and every play--of every single game. An approach that directly led to his downfall--when he collided with Austin Kearns at Shea Stadium in Queens that awful day.
Sad--is the only way to describe the situation.
Nick Johnson was sidelined all of 2007. Although, in Spring Training last February--he still had his sense of humor--when I chatted with him. And Sohna noticed--"He's shy, but you can see his dedication as a professional."
Our Number 24 is finally back--and after practice one afternoon in Viera Florida--Nick Johnson was kind enough to give The African Queen and I some personal time--after he signed autographs for EVERYONE that wanted one. His quiet demeanor stood out--when we talked to him.
With that--here we go with A Few Minutes With Nick Johnson.
I wanted to start by asking you how important family was to your recovery? (SBF)
“Yes, family is definitely important--great in fact. They were with me the entire time in DC while I was going through the rehab process and of course—back home (in Sacramento). It was nice to have them around. They helped me feel more grounded.”
We understand your young daughter (Brianna, two years old) was a big inspiration? (SBF)
(Smiling Broadly) “Aaah (thinking fondly), she had me running all over the house. Yes, she was!!”
Even when you couldn’t run! (SBF)
(Laughing), “Yeah, that’s right. Let’s call it hobbling, to be fair (still laughing). But, looking back—there were some good times (being with family). I can’t deny that.”
On to baseball—being back on the field competing has got to be a huge relief? (SBF)
“I feel good. It’s great to be playing again. Last season (2007) was a very long year for me. But now—by body feels good and to be healthy again means a lot.”
I know a lot of different folks have asked you this—but there had to be times during your recovery—when you felt you might never come back? (SBF)
“No doubt, unquestionably. The whole process was frustrating. But, once I got the rod out of my leg (inserted to help his femur heal)—things really took off in the right direction. I was able to workout and make strides (in rehab).”
It must be very tough to sit at home, watching your team play—and not able to contribute? (SBF)
“Oh—extremely tough and difficult—which makes being out here on the fields now—that much more special.”
I remember last year you told me that you spent a tremendous amount of time on the couch watching Sports on DirecTV. (SBF)
(Chuckling) “Oh my god, I got every single package. I became a sports junkie. What it allowed me to do was stay busy—during my rehab. It actually helped out.”
Now—since you are healthy—you have competition from Dmitri Young--someone to battle with for a starting position. A situation that came due to your injury. How do you work your way through that? (SBF)
“He (Dmitri) had a great year. You can’t take that away from him. He did really well and he is a good friend of mine. He is a good dude. We are both going to go out there—have some fun—and see where things fall. Of course—we both want to play everyday.”
Everyone wants those 500 At-Bats? (SBF)
“Yes, you better believe it. That's what I want.”
How difficult is it to get back to playing baseball? How’s your swing? (SBF)
“It’s alright. My baseball skills are coming back. I am doing fine. We got the six weeks or so to get ready for the first game. That’s a good amount of time to try to figure it all out and see what happens.”
And you are having any problems right now?
“None, whatsoever. I feel 100% ready.”
You may not control your destiny—but do you want to remain a National? (SBF)
“Yes, YES!! (With emphasis). But, I want to play each and every day as well.”
That’s the unfortunate part—you don’t control that. (SBF)
“Nope, that's why I need to go out there and have fun and see what happens.”
It’s good to see you and Austin Kearns out in the fields together. (The African Queen)
(Smiling, nodding his head in appreciation). Yes, he's become a good friend and I enjoy his company.”
Austin told us you met up with him in Las Vegas over the winter. (The African Queen)
“He was trying to teach me how to play blackjack—whatever good that did. (laughing)”
I’m not too good at it either. (SBF)
You got to be better than me—I am TERRIBLE!! (At blackjack)”
Everybody busting out laughing.
With that--Our Few Minutes With Nick Johnson came to an end. He needed to head off to The Clubhouse to complete his workout.
There is this quiet confidence to Nick Johnson that Sohna and I really enjoy. He knows and believes--he can still play this great game. And he wants to prove to every single doubter out there--wrong. We only wish him the best, because if Our Number 24 is able to re-kindle his skills of 2006--then Our Washington Nationals will be a far better team.
Nick Johnson can help Our Franchise--in 2008 and beyond. You can't give up on his grit for the game.
Neither should Our Washington Nationals.