Today is Opening Day for much of the major leagues. The Rays open their season tomorrow.
Here’s a quick look at two players we have seen a lot of over the last few years.
Dan Johnson and Elliot Johnson showed up in Durham Bulls uniforms in 2010 essentially with their last shot at playing serious baseball. Here we are in 2011 and both of them are on the Opening Day roster for the Tampa Bay Rays. How cool is that?
Dan Johnson spent virtually all of 2008 and 2010 with the Durham Bulls. His bat (and infielder’s skills) had a lot to do with the Bulls winning the South Division championship in those years. Some grumblers in the stands might point out that his absence (he was called up to Tampa both Septembers) had a lot to do with Durham not winning the Governors’ Cup in those years.
Nevertheless, we could never quite figure out last year why Dan wasn’t called up earlier. And we are really, really pleased to see him on the Rays roster this year. Good article by John Romano of the St. Petersburg Times here.
And then there’s the other Johnson, Elliot. Over in our side of the stands a couple of years ago, there was a good bit of debate regarding young Mr. Johnson. I represented the skeptics while those a few seats down provided a full-throated harmonious shout of, “Elliot! Get a hit!” In Elliot’s defense, at the time he was playing second base while superstar-in-waiting B.J. Upton was at shortstop and fumbling many, many, many of his opportunities to make a play.
Sometimes Elliot would get a hit, as in the game in Norfolk (at least I think it was Norfolk) when he got home runs batting left handed and right handed.
The Elliot Johnson who showed up with the Bulls in 2010 after being passed through waivers was a different sort of ballplayer. He and the Bulls were better for it. He had a solid year at the plate, stole a ton of bases, hit for average, was an International League All-Star, and, mostly, avoided injury. In a recent interview he credits his success in 2010 with laying off trying to hit home runs. But even after his successful year, he went into minor league free agency and was off to winter league ball in Mexico (amusingly chronicled in his wife’s blog).
To my pleased surprise, he was signed with an invitation to spring training this winter. And he’s on the opening day roster after a terrific spring playing a lot of positions. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
Have a great year guys! You’ve worked for it! Stop by and visit the DBAP some day.