Young baseball players in Tyler and Longview were able to receive tips from one of the best pitchers to ever play the game on Saturday.
Randy Johnson, a first-ballot Hall of Famer who spent 22 years in the major leagues, visited East Texas for the Chevy Youth Baseball Clinic.
Johnson spoke to the kids for a few minutes before taking questions.
“I played baseball from when I was 7 years old until I was 46,” Johnson said. “A lot of you know my hero. It was Nolan Ryan, and I got to pitch against him and learn from him. And then I pitched against Cal Ripken, who was one of the greatest shortstops ever.
“The keys for me to tell you at this age right now and for your parents to hear is to learn, listen and have fun. Those are the key ingredients at your age. And if you want to get good at playing baseball, keep playing and keep practicing.”
Johnson, who is from Walnut Creek, California, played collegiately at the University of Southern California. During his MLB career, Johnson played for the Montreal Expos, Seattle Mariners, Houston Astros, Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants.
Johnson was a 10-time All-Star, a World Series champion in 2001 and a five-time Cy Young Award winner. In 2015, he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Johnson allowed the kids to ask multiple questions. One of them involved the bird he hit with a pitch in 2001.
“I didn’t think I was going to come to this clinic without getting this question,” Johnson laughed. “If you don’t know about it, your parents do and they probably had you watch it on YouTube. Back in 2001, before all of you were born, I was pitching in a game, and I was getting ready to pitch. The ball was going toward home plate, and a bird went across, and the ball hit the bird. It was like a bunch of feathers flew up in the air. What are the chances of that happening?”
One kid asked for pitching tips. Another asked for hitting tips. And Johnson was even asked about catching advice.
“I wasn’t a very good hitter, but you have to practice at hitting just like anything else,” Johnson said. “I did enjoy hitting, and if you enjoy something and want to be better at it, you have to practice it.”
And while Johnson said he wasn’t made to be a catcher — being 6-10 and left-handed — he said he really appreciated all the catchers he had and understood how tough of a position it is to play.
Zac Holbrook of Ripken baseball said he was glad to have Johnson come and assist with the clinic.
“It’s awesome to see Randy out here,” Holbrook said. “It helps implement everything we’re teaching out here, because he’s a guy that has done it before at such a high level, and he did it by starting with the basic fundamentals.”
Holbrook said the Ripken Baseball Chevy Tour travels around the country and puts on free clinics for local youth.
“We want to teach everybody the way Cal Ripken Jr. and his brother Bill were taught. We want to teach them the basic fundamentals of baseball. It’s extremely important to do that.”