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June 11, 2024 46 mins
Ask anyone in the circle of baseball about Marc Johnson and chances are  they either have a tie to him or know someone who does.  That’s because for more than 50 years, Coach Johnson led one of the best baseball programs in the state of Colorado. A program that produced more than 50 professional players and several that became household names.  

He grew up in Nebraska and followed his father’s passion for the diamond. He played baseball throughout high school and found himself becoming more enamored with how the game was played. After getting his degree from the then Colorado State College (now University of Northern Colorado), he got a job teaching in the Cherry Creek School District.   

He wasn’t there long before he was drafted… into the Army and he was set to head to Vietnam. Until he got a phone call asking if he’d rather go to Vietnam or coach baseball on a base in Texas. He chose the latter.  

After leaving the Army, and with some coaching under his belt, he came back to Cherry Creek and started to teach again and coach. In the spring of 1973, he took over as the head coach for the Bruins and stayed there until he won his 9th State Title in June of 2024. Now it’s time for retirement.
Mark as Played
Transcript

Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
(00:00):
I was drafted. My brother wasdrafted the same day. The one thing
we knew that only one of uswould go to Vietnam because they wouldn't put
brothers in there together. He wentto Germany. But I got a phone
call and the phone call said,we understand you have a baseball background.
I said, yes, I do, and they said, well you got
two choices. You're on the leveeto be sent to Vietnam. But we're

(00:21):
interested if you're interested in being thebaseball coach at Furnhood, Texas. Welcome
to Kunt Traded Fired retired, apodcast featuring conversations with professional athletes and coaches
in a variety of sports. Myhope is that you'll gain a strategy or
perspective for your own life on howto handle setbacks and move forward. I'm
your host, Susie Wargen. Anotherone of my goals is to bring stories

(00:42):
to lighte from athletes and coaches thathave made an impact. This episode's guest
recently retired after more than fifty yearsas the head baseball coach at Cherry Creek
High School. For more than fivedecades, Mark Johnson impacted countless teenagers,
not only in baseball, but alsoin soccer and as a teacher. His
baseball story is the most legendary,having coached several players who went on to

(01:03):
play professionally and a few became householdnames. His teams competed in fifteen state
championships and won nine of them,the last one coming in June of twenty
twenty four, his final game asthe Bruins head coach. There's been so
much said over the years about hiscoaching style, titles, and high caliber
athletes. However, there is somuch more to Mark Johnson, including what

(01:26):
molded him prior to joining the staffat Cherry Creek in the early seventies.
He's definitely a different breed of highschool coach with an admirable history and outlook
on what makes a team and afamily. Ladies and gentlemen, Mark Johnson
Cut Traded, Fired, Retired Podcastwith Susie Wargen Coach Mark Johnson, How

(01:47):
are you. I'm doing well.Thank you. It's good to have you
in here. I know you've hada whirlwind since getting another state title and
retiring, and I appreciate you takingthe time to come in because I think
your story deserves a lot of attention. You have given over a half a
century to Cherry Creek High School baseballand just to have such a cool story

(02:08):
before you even did that too.Yes, I've been very, very blessed
in many arenas of my life,but being able to be at Cherry Creek
High School for fifty two years andat the same high school. Oftentimes,
when I speak at clinics in differentstates and so forth, though, it
backs them up when they say,you've actually been at the same high school

(02:30):
fifty plus years, and I have. I've been fortunate enough that I've been
through probably six principals, three orfour superintendents, and many many teachers.
I retired from teaching twenty five yearsago and continued to be the baseball coach
while I was able to do that. It kind of became a full time

(02:52):
groundskeeper after that, as well as, you know, trying to coach baseball
through all seasons. I stopped doingother worts after ninety nine and put pretty
much my entire time that I hadavailable into high school baseball. I love
it, all, right, Socoach, let's go back to your very
beginnings. You grew up in Nebraska. I did tell me a little bit

(03:13):
about growing up where you were.And what's interesting is there was not high
school baseball in Nebraska at the timewhen you were in high school. That's
true. I was born in ashattered Nebraska. My dad was a baseball
guy through and through, not onlyplayed, but ended up coaching what was
called town team baseball at that time, which each town had a semi pro

(03:36):
team coming out. They'd hire pitchersto come in to make their little town
look good. So I followed himthroughout my youthful career. We moved to
grand isw in Nebraska when I wasan eighth grader, and then my dad
got a position to run a companyin Norfolk, Nebraska, feed and Seed
Company. We moved into Norfolk,Nebraska, and that's where I graduated from

(03:58):
high school. I played collegion youngerAmerican legion was called midgets at the time,
and then and then it went towhat would be like juniors and seniors
in high school. From there,I went to what is now the University
of Northern Colorado. It was ColoradoState College at the time I entered that,
and I laid a year out ofschool to try to make decisions on

(04:19):
what I wanted to do and whereI wanted to go. And oh,
you took a gap year before therewas a gap year. That's exactly right.
Wo, that's impressive, coach.I took a gap year and took
a couple of classes at the localcommunity college and then decided that I wanted
to go to Colorado and finish byIt was down to between Illinois State what
was called Colorida State College at thetime. I chose to come to Colorida

(04:44):
State College. Why did you makethat decision over Illinois State? Two things.
Number One, both baseball programs weregood, but Colorida State College had
been to the College World Series.They had done, you know, extremely
well. Secondly, my counselors atschool had told me that often times where
you go to school is where you'regoing to end up living. And I
said to myself, I think I'drather live in Colorado, no kidding.

(05:06):
Yeah. What other sports did youplay growing up aside from baseball? Yeah?
I played, interestingly enough, Iwas a football quarterback. I played
basketball. I played tennis because baseballwas a summer sport there was no high
school baseball. I actually played tennisat Colorida State College as well. You
did, you did both sports.I tried to do both sports I did.

(05:28):
I ended up playing baseball and beingin baseball, but I was a
tennis player at the time as well. Wow, two sport athlete in college
as well. And then you finishup at Colorado State College which is now
University of Northern Colorado and Greeley.As you said, and what happens after
college? You don't go on tothe pros. I was lucky enough to
be invited to several pro tryout camps. I just wasn't really refined enough to

(05:54):
be taken as a professional. ButI'd always loved baseball. I mean,
baseball was my love in all thesports, and interestingly enough, having quite
a bit of high school success atall of them with my body size,
baseball was far more conducive to me. What position did you play? I
was a middle infielder and second base, shortstop, shortstop a lot in high

(06:15):
school, second base later on,but I just became completely enamored with the
details of the game of baseball.So therefore, when I went out and
I was a football coach at CherryCreek West Junior High School, which is
seven to nine, then we hada six and oh season and I got

(06:36):
drafted into the Army. I tellmy players and kids, I was drafted
in the first round. It justhappened to be in the Army. Okay,
wait, so let's do this timelinereal fast. Because you graduate college,
the pro thing doesn't work out,do you get hired on at Creek?
Then right away? I did.I was a student teacher at Cherry

(06:56):
Creek West Middle School. They werepe teacher. I was a hockey coach
and played hockey at DU. Wegot pretty close as we worked together and
so forth, and he took ahockey job in Saint Paul, Minnesota,
and they hired me for his position. I taught for one year, and
I got to the early September ofthe next year and I got drafted.

(07:18):
As an interesting story, I wentback to Nebraska to pleaded my case that
I was teaching school, and allof the guys that were on the committee
were pretty much warriors who'd been inthe World War Two or had been in
Korea, or whatever the case hadbeen. And basically the way I read
it was, you're not teaching inNebraska, so you'd be a good candidate

(07:39):
to be out there working for America. So I was drafted. My brother
was drafted the same day. Theone thing we knew that only one of
us would go to Vietnam because theywouldn't put brothers in there together. He
went to Germany. I was livingto Vietnam. I was a military occupational,
especially was an administration because I wasa college graduate. But I got

(08:00):
a phone call and the phone callsaid, we understand you have a baseball
background. I said, yes,I do, and they said, well,
you got two choices. You're onthe levee to be sent to Vietnam,
but we're interested if you're interested inbeing the baseball coach at Fort Hood,
Texas. So I worked in thegymnasium and coached baseball, taught a
little bit of tennis to the officers'wives on the side. It was an

(08:22):
unbelievable experience for me. I couldtell many stories about coaching. We got
to play the University of Texas.We played a lot of people. I
was on a base with forty thousandsoldiers. We even played the prisons and
one of the prisoners said to me, we're really glad you're here playing,
but we're sad that we can't playyour home and home. So I've always

(08:43):
remembered that as the story that wasquite funny at the time. I'm sure,
Oh my gosh, So you coachbaseball throughout your entire time that you
were in the Army. Correct,and you stayed at the state base,
same base. Well, I obviouslyI did my basic training and my ait
training at Fort but I was transferredto ford Hood to be the baseball coach.
Did you and your brother do basictogether? Did they split you guys

(09:05):
up? No, we did ittogether. And okay for Polkin, he
was sent to Germany, ended upbeing a driver for a sergeant major.
So we both were very lucky.Yes, you were. My dad served
in the Marines from sixty four tosixty eight. Right out of high school.
He went to Westminster High School andit basically came down to you go,
you don't go, you go,and he was a don't go and

(09:26):
went to Okinawa and was an airtraffic controller. But he said, we're
literally standing there and I was oneguy off, you know, not going
to Vietnam. I have a storyvery very much like that. They were
drafting everybody at that time in Nebraska. They're going down one by one.
I'm standing next to my brother.They go Navy Army, Air Force,
Coast Guard Marine. They got tomy brother and I and they stopped and

(09:48):
said Army, Army, and bothof us just looked at each other like,
oh my gosh, wow. Becauseas you know, with your father
as a marine and the marine wasthe one in front of us, was
that you were on the ground andyou were in your front line we were
in Vietnam. Absolutely, yeah,So we both feel very very blessed and

(10:09):
gifted in the sense that it workedout that way. But bo I remember
vividly both of us looking at eachother like, oh my god, how
unbelievable is this. Yeah, well, and thank you for your service,
coach, because I had no ideathat you were also a veteran. I'll
have to bring that up at theColoro Sports Hall of Fame when I introduce
you every year. Yeah. Well, yeah, I am a veteran.
But at the same point, luckyin the sense that I got to do

(10:31):
what I did, and I gotto stay on that base till I was
out and I came back. Igot an early out in September to come
back to graduate school. I gota couple of months early because I was
going to be going to graduate schooland they said, in which case,
we'll give you a month or twoleeway. And what'd you get your graduate
degree in? I got my graduatedegree in education, but obviously it was

(10:52):
physical education, which is what Itaught my entire career. So and did
Cherry Creek have a job waiting foryou when you came back? They actually
did, But I did teach atin elementary school because they were overloaded everywhere.
I taught it in elementary school forthe first seven years, which,
believe it or not, I enjoyedvery much because kids, I mean,
they would say things like I'm shootingbaskets. They say, you should be

(11:13):
playing for the Nuggets. All nothardly at five nine, dude, but
anyway or five ten whatever I wasat the time. No, you're a
giant to them. Well it seemslike it at that time. Yeah,
I mean yeah, when they're littleyoung ones like that. But like I
said, I've I've been very blessedin being at the right spot at the
right time. Seven years later,I was asked to come to the high

(11:35):
school. I had already been coachingthere, but I've been asked there was
a job that opened up, andI had been there ever since so I
think I was there from like nineteenseventy seven seventy eight till I retired from
teaching in nineteen ninety nine, andI just continued to coach from ninety nine
to now. Now, wow,So you got your job coaching the baseball

(11:58):
team the school year of nineteen seventyone to seventy two. So the spring
of seventy two was your first yearas the head coach of the baseball I
was at. I was actually theassistant associate head coach. Okay, knowing
that I was going to become thehead coach. Gotcha. They had said,
we'd like to give you a yearwith Ken Radcliffe at the time,
who really was a football guy,and they had pretty much made the decision

(12:22):
that I just get the experience ofbeing there, Okay, associate head coach
the first year, So head coachsince the spring of seventy three, correct,
gotcha? Okay? And what didyou learn? And I'm fascinated by
the fact that you're there for overfive decades, how society has changed,
how kids have changed, how sportshave changed, and kind of what you
maybe look back on then and think, I mean, there's no way you

(12:45):
thought you'd be there for fifty twoyears doing that program. But what did
you kind of learn as a headcoach with student athletes in the early nineteen
seventies. Interesting that you had askedthat, because I've been asked that a
lot, and it was a lotdifferent. First of all, is a
blue collar game. When I firststarted at Cherry Creek, it was a
cowboys school. I mean it wasout here and there were a lot of

(13:07):
guys there, right, Yeah,a lot of guys out here were in
pickups. They'd come to school andthey'd had their chwo rings and you can
see in their wranglers and so forthas they came. And my number one
commitment was to get the athletes tobecome interested in baseball. You ask a
question that I get asked often,and I'm asked, are the kids different

(13:28):
now than they were then? Andonly believe this or not in the sense
of entitlement then why they knew theyhad to scratch for everything they did.
And I remember paying two hundred dollarsfor entry fees for tournaments in the summer
and now it's three thousand to goto some of the national ones and so
forth. I would say, youhave to have a lot of adaptability.

(13:50):
People say to me all the time, they say, you keep your mind
young, And I said, listen, if you deal with seventeen and eighteen
year olds your whole life, it'spretty difficult to get older. As you
go. Oh yeah, you stayvery young. They don't allow you to.
I mean, one thing is theykeep you up on the lingo.
I was gonna say, you know, the vercular. They keep you up

(14:11):
on all of those things. Andthey have a lot of fun at that
age, and they do a lotof crazy, dumb things that you know,
you're like, oh my gosh.One thing I would say this is
you can deal with a seventeen andeighteen year old and he will talk like
an adult. You'll be wow,this guy is and then fifteen minutes later
he's like he's twelve years old.But that's also part of it. So

(14:35):
the beauty of them, it isthe beauty. And I think that the
adaptability is what kept me in it. The love of baseball and the love
of that age kids. I didhave an opportunity a few times to leave
for some others. You could havegone college jobs. Yeah, a few
were dangled in front of a littlebit and a few professional jobs as well.

(14:56):
I did scout for thirty eight years, So baseball was in my blood
because as my father was a baseballguy, even though no matter what he
did, he always had time toplay catch, to hit ground balls,
to do whatever for me and generateda massive love for me in the game.
And then I got so enamored bythe details of baseball, which I

(15:20):
coached today as what I call howto win awareness. And it's just all
the little detail things that can makea difference. Not just that we out
pitched them, that we out hithim, or we out defended them,
but could we bunt, could wehit and run? Could we have defenses
that would stop some of the thingsthey did? All the what we refer
to as HWA, which is howto win awareness, things that squeeze bunts.

(15:43):
You know, I'm old school.Even in the tournament last week.
You made some calls in that game, didn't you. They were like that
you did, and people were makingcomments that you saw some old school baseball.
Yes, pulled our infield in inthe first inning, and people would
say, why would you do that? And you know, it depends who's
on the mound. I mean,if I'm managing in the Big leagues and

(16:04):
Greg Maddox is pitching, I'm bringingmy infield in. The guy gives up
less than two runs a game,and we had a play that work perfectly.
Hit the second basically threw the guyout the plate, and the following
inning we ran a squeeze month andwe ran a squeeze mount later to score.
And those things for me really kindof identify my coaching philosophy, which

(16:26):
would be looked at today as kindof an old school philosophy. But if
you pay very close attention to thegame, it's coming back. They're coming
back to where there are doing somehit and runs, some steal, a
lot of things that they got awayfrom when they were trying to play all
power baseball. And the last thingI would say about that is this,
it's always easy to identify because whenthey get to the playoffs in the World

(16:49):
Series and they mess up months,there's a reason why they don't ever do
it. They're out of practice.They just don't do it enough to be
so comfortable. I have this linewith my baseball players. We have the
act, we have the SAT.What I'm training you for is the bat.
It's the baseball achievement test. Andthat is how we do when we

(17:11):
get to the playoffs, and ourlittle comment was always we want to be
as good as we can be,but we want to be our best in
May. If it goes further toearly June, that's what we want to
be, playing our best. Youlearn a lot from failure. You have
to learn to react to adversity.Baseball's got a ton of it. I
think it's a life skill because youhave to adapt, you have to respond

(17:37):
to things that don't always go well. And then if you're as blessed as
I've been, and a lot ofpeople think it's really something, but I
try to bring them back to realityand saying we had two unbeaten seasons and
fifty two years. We've had ninestate titles fifty two years, and five
of those were in a row.Five one, I mean, you had
a chunk of them right there.The other four spread over those other forty

(18:00):
seven and ten to twelve year differencesbetween. It's hard to do. It's
hard. It's very, very hard. I tried to explain that to our
players this year, and I said, if you think it's going to fall
into your lap because people think you'regood, you're mistaken. You're going to
have to be efficient. You're goingto have to execute. We're going to
have to have some luck or mojoin our favor. If we keep guys

(18:21):
eligible, nobody gets hurt. Imean, we had things happen that,
you know, We're very, veryfortunate for us. We had our whole
team for the whole year. That'samazing. It really is not to have
injuries or academic issues, yeah,any other thing. So that is also
a testament to you. I amcurious about your thoughts baseball wise. You
were talking about how we see somechanges right now in Major League Baseball with

(18:44):
analytics. How much does that playinto what you do, like with your
brain and the chess game that goeson with baseball. I'm an old school
baseball chess player is what I liketo refer to it. I do not
have a data background, but wedo a lot of things. Base done
what I call percentages, and I'ma guy that I'm going to play the
percentages more often than not. Therewas one case in this playoff where I

(19:07):
didn't do that, but I liketo play what I think gives us the
best chance to score. I mean, there's a lot of analytics that go
unknown. They get, they geton their computers and they do everything.
But one thing is that the teamthat scores first in high school baseball wins
over sixty percent of the time.So that's a big analytic item for us.

(19:29):
And then one of the other analyticitems is the more chances you give
yourself. So if your guys throwmore strikes, it keeps their pitch numbers
down, they have an opportunity togo further in high school. You don't
have to be the major league guythat hits every spot, does all of
those kind of things. We knowthat our percentages come my percentage from an

(19:52):
old school brain is the more freebags you give up, the more chances
you have to lose. And youknow, the more freebies that they don't
have to earn, whether it's apass ball, a wild pitch, has
stolen base. I mean it goeson and on and on. The more
of those that you give away,the less chance of your winning. And
our goal has always never been championships. My goal has always been relationships over

(20:15):
championships, and relationships create winning,and that's a byproduct. The other thing
is is I pushed this a lotwith just being the best you can be.
A better you makes a better WI. We want to be the best
we can be. And if we'rethe best we can be, and it's
league champion or no league champion,whatever the case is, then you've done

(20:37):
your job. But I like totell younger coaches because I think this is
so important. I was lucky atthe state final game this year. I
had over fifty some players from pastyears through five decades that came back either
living in Denver, flying in,doing whatever to come to the games.
Not one of them communicated with meabout championship. All they communicated about was

(21:02):
what fun high school baseball was andhow it affected them in their futures.
So I like to tell young guys, don't ever get caught up. If
your kids do the best they canand they work, they're telling it's what
it's the relationships that they remember.Absolutely. So let's talk about some of
those former players. You had overfifty that went into professional baseball and hundreds

(21:26):
that you have been able to coachand influence and be probably a pseudo father
figure to many throughout the years.What means the most to you when you
hear from them. You mentioned thatthey don't talk about championships, they talk
about what their experience was like.Is that it I think the thing that's
so important when they come back isthere you know their feeling about the bonding.

(21:49):
It was the inter relationship with myteammates, my coaching staff, and
I mean, I've had many ofthem. I even had texts this morning
that I'll show you from the onlygirl that ever played for me. Her
name was Cassie Snow. She wasvery, very good baseball. She'd played
youth league baseball and played like herfreshman and sophomore year, and I had

(22:11):
to tell her, there's no futurefor you, young lady. You need
to play softball because that's where yourfuture is going to be. But she
played two two and a half yearsof baseball, and I know she loved
baseball greatly, but I said,at that time there was really no future
for a female baseball player. Shewent on to be quite a college softball
player. That's great. We're veryproud of that. The other thing that

(22:34):
stands out is just how many ofthem are willing to give back. I
couldn't tell you how many players overmy career have said, if you have
kids that can't afford to play summerbaseball. I don't want them to know
where it came from anything about it, but if they need some financial help,

(22:56):
I'm willing to do it. AndI've been fortunate enough to have a
whole lot of players that have donethat. That is really special. And
it is and if you were tolook at our field, ninety percent of
that field that we have was fromformer players from the Cherry Creek Diamond Club,
from two women that worked with me. I mean, I tell my

(23:18):
coaches they don't work for me,they work with me. And same thing
with the ladies that did our fundraisingfor years. If you were to look
there and you see and they say, wow, you got a lot of
really cool things, well, believeme, it wasn't just given to you.
No, it was earned. Itwasn't school budget. It was given
by people who have raised money,people who gave money, and many former

(23:41):
players that have done well in businessor professional baseball or whatever and wanted to
give back, not because I calledthem or knocked on the door and asked
them, because they called and saidwhat can I do? What can I
do to help the program. Itwas also very interesting for me to note
that all most every one of themsaid I'd like to do it anonymously,

(24:03):
And no one ever said this tome. But I know why they didn't
want their door knocked on every dayby somebody else. Oh yeah, because
the other clubs are going to becoming and knocking on their door to They're
like, hey, you were alsoin this at Cherry Creek. That's right,
that's exactly right. So no oneever said that, but I knew
it all absolutely. But I've alwaysfelt very blessed by the fact that the
former players we have always talked,and all of them will tell you this.

(24:29):
We speak of our program being theCherry Creek Baseball family and family to
me, I asked my kids atthis last few years since I learned it,
to take the word family when itgoes fa mL y, it basically
means forget about me, I loveyou. And that's the whole idea of
what we talk about in our family. And one thing when you were at

(24:53):
these games this weekend and you seeall these people from the past, and
you see people that are in theirlate sixties who played for me, You
see people in their early twenties whoplayed for me, going all the way
through, and they're intermingling and they'retalking about Cherry Creek baseball. They're seeing

(25:14):
some of their old friends, andI think that's a massive highlight for mece
is to watch the family. Imean, it almost looks like grandparents,
parents' kids. It's a family reunion. It literally it is. It's literally
a fan. You were the gluethere that whole time, coach. I
don't know that I was the glue, but I was certainly a part of

(25:36):
it, and I was honored tobe that. So you've had several big
names that have come through Cherry Creek. You look at Brad Lidge as one
of them, and I mean householdnames that went on to play very well
in Major League Baseball and people knowabout them. I know that you never
put another player ahead of another one, but when you hear somebody saying,

(25:56):
oh, you know, went toCherry Creek High School or so, I
mean, that had to make youextremely proud when those guys got to that
level. Absolutely. I just watchedone on MLB Network this morning being singlely
interviewed Griffin Jackson the Twins. Hewas interviewed this morning on MLB Network and
I was contacted and said, youneed to listen at your boy. There's

(26:17):
a difference between a high school starand a major league star. Oftentimes it's
maturity. Billy Wilkinson in nineteen eightythree is still to this day the best
high school pitcher that we've ever had. He was five foot nine. He
moved in. I said, whatkind of an athlete are you? I
threw him a basketball and he backhanddunked it. And he was drafted out

(26:37):
of high school. He was inthe big leagues at twenty years old.
And I come back and I lookat Brad Lidge. Brad Lidge was a
guy who I've got a close personalrelationship, as with Billy and these other
players as well, but Brad wasa guy that I had to say,
You're probably not going to be inthe starting lineup as a position player,
but you got a good arm.We need to maybe start focusing. I'm

(27:00):
pitching a little bit. He didn'tget to play for me till he was
a senior. He went to NotreDame on a twenty percent scholarship at that
time, came out of first rounddraft, won the World Series for the
Phillies in two thousand and seven.He was a guy who matured a little
later, David Ardsma played for meand played on our ninth grade B team,
went on to play in the majorleagues and was absolutely terrific player.

(27:23):
Darnell McDonald probably the best athlete inhigh school that I've ever coached. Amazing,
amazing, I mean, he wasliterally phenomenal in football. He was
phenomenal in baseball. And I believein my heart and soul in fact,
as I was once told by MikeShanahan at a high school football game that
he could have played in the NFLas a punt returner as a high school

(27:45):
kid. And obviously he committed toTexas, which was a powerhouse at the
time in football, and then becamea first round draft that got a couple
of million dollars and he went tobaseball from then on here. There were
many times anyone I wonder how itwould have been if I'd have gone in
football. He was kind of anEMMITTT. Smith type of player, but

(28:07):
terrific athlete. Has been awesome toour program in the past. He was
back for the games this weekend.That's great. He's also in the Colorado
Sports Hall of Fame. Absolutely andjust a tremendous tremendous person. We have
Griffin Jackson's in the big leagues rightnow. John Burke, who pitched for
the Rockies, was the first rounddraft with the Houston Astros. When I
worked with the Astros. I havebeen very, very blessed. And it's

(28:30):
amazing how those guys still bleed redwhite. They stay connected, don't they.
They love Cherry Creek. Me too, we bleed red, white and
blue. That was an experience thathave had to say this to people often.
I feel so blessed that I choseto stay right where I am because

(28:51):
at this point now it has dawnedon me that you've had a chance to
make a positive impact on several people, and and it's hundreds of people code.
It's a pretty amazing feeling. Yeah, I mean, it really is
that our family really is that connected. You know. They had an event
for me at the last home game, A bunch of the players who came

(29:14):
back for that, several who hadwaited to come back for the state championship
time period. But we all wenttogether after the event in the game we
won our last game in the regularseason, and we all went to JD's
Bait shop together and just intermingled againwatching all the decades of guys walking around

(29:36):
given high fives to friends they wentto high school with, and you know,
catching up with each other. Andit truthfully, sometimes I think people
don't understand until you see it.But the family atmosphere of it was really
heartwarming. It's like a class reunionevery time, but it's a class that
spans over five decades and it isincredible. Well what's incredible is to watch

(29:57):
a guy relate to somebody that hewas young and watched play at his age
and absolutely and said, I cameup we were playing, you know,
our ninety six team they used tocome up at. My son was in
that group ninety five and ninety sixwhen we started that five year run.
But they were up by that littleold school house that was the first Cherry

(30:19):
Creek school and they were up thereat eight nine years old, hanging around
playing wiffleball stuff while we played.I mean, if they were to tell
you they looked forward to playing atCherry Creek High School. And that's something
that I've always felt really really goodabout school. We've had a lot of
players that dreamed about trying to weara Cherry Creek uniform, which is super

(30:41):
special because people will talk about howI always dreamt about being in the pros
or dreamt about going here for college. When it's like that for high school,
that's really special. I think itis as well. And I think
the other thing. It doesn't meanthey don't dream about the rest because because
they do. But absolutely, ButI've had many of them say I was
eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, I could not wait to

(31:02):
get on a Cherry Creek uniform.And so many of that group of that
five year span, those guys thatwere neighborhood kids. Yeah, I mean
they played in their streets, Theydid all that, didn't they They did,
they played whiffle ball in the backyard. In fact, as my neighbor
just the other day said to me, I'm really glad that your grandsons are

(31:22):
growing up. I don't have topick up one hundred whiffle balls every other
day, so worry about broken windowsnot so we're fortunate enough. I talked
about the regular balls good, butthey definitely hit a lot of balls in
the neighbor's yard. Yeah, intwenty twenty one, may have twenty twenty
one, you had your eight hundredand eighth win, which then made you
the all time winning is to baseballcoach in Colorado. And you said that

(31:45):
you had two hundred and fifty threevoicemails from former players. Yeah, and
messages how I mean two hundred andfifty three. Holy cow, And you
probably got back to every single oneof them. My bet, I did
my best. I just got overfive hundred after this weekend, and I
tried to text back everybody, orsend back a note, or call them

(32:05):
and talk to them or do whatever, because the ones that do that,
I mean, truthfully feel like they'reapart. Absolutely. I mean I told
my team this year, I said, you have no idea how many guys
that are here rooting for you thatplayed here in years past. We even
had players here from other schools andother people that texted me and said,

(32:27):
we're rooting for you. I knowwe competed against you for years and years
and years. But I mean,I announced the retirement in October because I
didn't want it to be a distraction. I wanted them to stay focused and
do what they needed to do.But no, it truthfully is a family.
And that's probably one of the thingsthat I feel the most proud of
is that we've been able to maintaina true love for the baseball program,

(32:52):
the baseball family, and not justfor that year, but for the whole
existence of the program. And you'reseventy nine years old, when you are
very tech savvy, they have keptyou young. I mean, you answered
my text pretty quickly, and Ithought, I told Dave Logan, I
said, hey, can you giveme Coach Johnson's number. I'm going to
give him a couple of days soI'm not bugging him five hundred text messages.
You got back to me pretty quickly. I'm super impressed. And you're

(33:14):
on Twitter. You tweet every singleday. You have stayed young. I've
stayed young, but I need totell you that any young person. My
granddaughter who just graduated, grabbed myphone the other day and she said,
Pops, you're not very smart aboutyour phone, are you. I said,
I can text, I can email, and I can answer calls and
make calls and that's all I reallyneed. And she said, well you

(33:37):
do Twitter. She said, Isee that you're not on anything else.
You're not on Instagram, you don'tdo TikTok, you don't do whatever,
pentrest or all these things that thekids do. They kind of get a
kick out of it, that sure, but they also get a huge kick
when I pick up on one oftheir new little high school legal deals.

(33:58):
You know, different words that yousay oh yeah in different eras yes,
and those words go dead after abouteight or ten years, a new one
start and they go dead when youknow them you are super cool? Oh
yeah, exactly. When when yousay something and they'll look at you like,
where'd you get that? Or I'llmention some musical group or something.

(34:19):
Ago I thought all you listened tois country, I said, well,
I listened to you. So whenI hear you talk about who you think
is cool and all this type ofthings, sometimes I play it back on
him and kind of see it.Why I do that with my daughter,
she's twenty one. Every once ina while, I'll be like, oh
yeah, slay queen, Oh yeah, did she looks like we know that?
Where where'd you come up with that? Well, you've said it to

(34:42):
me, so I figured if Ijust turned it around and said it to
you, yeah, catch you offguard. I got him the other day
with the boy and the hood here, whatever it is, all of them
just stop dead and they're like youlisten to that. Oh, Sonny,
No, I really don't listen tothat, but I know about it.
I know it about him. Iknow he was just here for a concert
that a lot of you went to. That Nobody told me, but I

(35:06):
heard you talking. You have goodears. You listen to everything exactly.
Yeah. Let's talk about your Twitterhabit of tweeting something positive every day.
You started that during COVID. Ilove it. I've followed you for a
very long time, and I justlove that you put something out positive every
day. I do that for areason, and when I started during the
pandemic, obviously it was a verynegative time to begin with. Yes,

(35:30):
but I've also done it because Ibelieve that our country is so divided that
we got to do something that kindof pulls us together, regardless of what
our political beliefs are. I mean, I had a guy I listened to
something the other day and he said, well, you can pretty much tell
who's on this side, who's theliberal, who's the conservative, who's this

(35:52):
and that? And I've said,we're all east and west. I believe
that we need to be up anddown instead of east and west, and
having in the army and so forth. I think that we need to become
the United States and not the dividedStates. At some point I got this
idea that I would post just athought, you know something or something i'd

(36:12):
heard before from something or continually orlooking for people saying positive things and trying
to pick up on it or copyit or do whatever the case may be,
and just to start the day witha sentence or a little comment that
is something that would make their daystart on a positive basis and not a

(36:34):
negative basis, meaning things like encouragement. Can you say something good about somebody?
Can you look at somebody and justthink a positive thought about them?
Can you look and say, thisis going to be a good day before
I ever think about what's bad I'mgoing to have to do in this day.
And maybe some comments about adapting orcomments about reacting to adversity because we

(37:00):
all face it. One of thethings that I love about baseball pretty lifelike.
There's lots of ups and downs.Yeah, And one of the things
is is you learn that you bethe best person you can be, be
the best athlete you can be,You be the best and anything that you
do. You know, my dadtaught me young, being somewhat of a
blue collar guy, he said,you know what, whatever you do,

(37:22):
try to be the best you canbe. He said, he even at
that time, he said, Idon't care if you're a street sweeper,
you're the CEO of the biggest companyin America. The same thing should be
your goal. You want to bethe best you can be at what you
do. And the second thing hesaid, which I've really tried to grasp
and do something with, he said, is do everything you can do to

(37:43):
make somebody else a better person.I think that if we can do that,
and that's part of the positive thingthat I'm talking about, if we
don't just continually think about me.I have a single word every year that
I've coached for the last twenty years. That was our word for the year,
and this year it was we.And the reason it was just the
word we is that because I feltthat in our society and even in athletics,

(38:06):
everything is about me. Your metricsare about me, your doubt,
everything's about me, me, me, me, And at some point,
to be a good team, evento be a good state, a good
country, we've got to spend alittle more time on we that it's about
US. When I coached the USteam, I used to always say,
the US isn't always the United States, it's US as well. It's about

(38:29):
us. It's just something that I'vecarried with me for a long time.
And the other thing that my dadtaught me that I've never forgotten. He
said, Mark, you're going tobe a teacher and a coach, and
if you think you're going to pleaseeverybody, you're mistaken. So he said,
you just need to do the bestyou can do, be the best
you can be, try to helppeople out the best you can, and

(38:49):
respond from there. And so withyour positive tweets, you would think that
nobody would ever say anything negative.One guy pop off on you and be
with the negative comment, right,Yeah, I had one guy in a
three year period. I told mywife. I said, no, it
can't really get hater mentality on apositive tweet. Oh but it's Twitter.

(39:10):
But it's Twitter. And one thingthat happened is I finally got a tweet
where somebody said you're part of theproblem. You're constantly encouraging people and that's
just not the way it is.I looked at it and I said,
you know what, in your case, you may be right, but I
would be willing to bet if Isaid something positive to you or encouraging to

(39:31):
you, it would uplift you.And I didn't obviously get to tweet that
back to him because I didn't.It's best not to engage, especially with
a hater. Yes, especially becauseI see in baseball is all over Twitter.
No matter what you think or howyou coach, or whatever you think
about this, there's going to besomebody. And my wife brought reality to

(39:53):
me in that area, and shesaid, do you know more than one
way home? And I said,I'd like to think I do, but
I come home the same way everyday. But she said, well,
that's the point. The point isthere are more than one ways to get
to a goal or to get toa It's all not just set in one.
So if somebody disagrees with you,so what you do what's successful for

(40:15):
you, let them do what's successfulfor them. That's a great analogy.
I mean it is. She's asmart woman. She is that. I'm
not so sure in her marriage.She was good in a lot of other
arenas. All right, coach,this has been awesome. I'm going to
ask you one last question. Ithink you've kind of already answered it with
the advice that your dad gave you. But you have been doing this for

(40:37):
so long at so many different levels, and even you know everything that you've
done all along the way. Youmentioned that you coach the US team,
which we didn't even talk about.But when you come across players, student
athletes that are down or having thoserough times, what you've said to them
throughout the years, the encouragement you'vegiven them to step back up, get
going. I talk to a lotof athletes on this podcast. They get

(40:58):
cut. It's devastating. You know, how do you move forward? What
do you do? So? Whatdo you tell people? I tell them
that baseball is not your life.This is what you do because you love
to do it. It has nothingto do with who you are. It
is what you are for a shortperiod of time. But I constantly tell
them everybody's done at some point,whether it's elementary school, high school,

(41:21):
junior, college, college, professional, at some point, you're done.
And the bottom line is who youare is much more important than what you
are. And by the way,failure is to be used as fuel for
me in my thing. You've gotto use failure because everybody fails, but
you've got to say, you knowwhat I learned. I wear a little

(41:43):
thing on my arm all the time. It says win or learn, meaning
that a loss is not that devastating. What could we learn? How can
we get better? What can wedo better? Can we try to get
one percent better every day? Notjust in baseball but in life? What
can I do that would make somebodyelse feel better? What could I do?
I like to tell my players.If you see somebody that's down,

(42:05):
sit by them. If you seesomebody that's sitting in the lunch by themselves
and nobody's talking to them, goover and sit down, you know,
just say you know what's up.Maybe something you could say to a teammate,
to a person, to anybody elsecan make a difference, absolutely,
And sometimes just a little comment,even just saying, like I'm going to

(42:25):
say to you, you're good atwhat you do. You're very good at
what you do. And that's apositive statement that has a tendency to uplift
somebody. I think there's so manythings that we bypass that you have a
chance to say something. I mean, I was in line the other day
at Starbucks and aneath the opian manand just he opened the door for me,

(42:47):
and then he made like three orfour really really nice comments, had
no clue who I was or whatI did or anything else. And I
told the lady, I said I'mgonna buy his drink today, and he
was just floored. I mean,he looked at me and he goes,
why would you do that? AndI said, because I want to.
I said, you were very kindto me, and I feel like I'd

(43:07):
like to buy your coffee today.And I'd like to believe that he went
out the door, got in hiscar and thought why would he even do
that? And the reason that Idid it is because he opened the door
for me, but made several verykind comments and had no idea who the
heck I was. Wow, AndI just thought it was something that that's

(43:28):
great, you know, could bepositive. Absolutely, and he'll pay it
forward as well. Sounds like he'sthat kind of guy. And I'm glad
that you just said that, becausethe one thing that I asked every player
that's ever played for me is togive something back, pay it on,
play it forward, do something tohelp somebody else. And then when those
guys come to me and say I'dlike to sponsor a kid, some kid

(43:49):
that really needs it. I don'twant any attention for it. I don't
want to know who I am.I don't know what I do for a
living my business. You just say, somebody anonymously has supported you in your
endeavor. Yeah, so that messageresonated with many of your players throughout the
year. I've had several of themsay that. The one thing I remember
is you said pay it forward.That's something that I hope to do as

(44:12):
well, even in retirement. Ihope that there's something or some things that
I can do along the way thatwill pay forward the great success, the
great journey that I've been able tobe on. Yeah, what do you
plan on doing now? I knowI said last question, but that's the
big question, right Yeah, thebig question is right now, I'm trying
to, you know, gather everythingI know. I could offer some services

(44:34):
as a bench coach to somebody ifI got bored. I'm going to do
some speaking things I think you should. I'm going to do maybe some positive
awareness type things for either business teams, you know, wherever you'd be fabulous
at that, wherever you can possiblymake a difference. And the one other
comment that I've got in my lifeis several kids have said you're an outstanding

(44:59):
coach, but you're you're an outstandingmotivator as well, So you know,
maybe I can use some of thatto help somebody fulfill their dreams. And
if anybody listening to this wants toget in touch with you, you just
contact me and all uh, I'llbe your agent. There you go,
that'd be great. All right,coach, this was so fun. We've
never had a chance to really sitdown and chat like this. I see

(45:22):
you every year at the Colorado SportsHall of Fame dinner, and it's just
this is a pleasure. I'm sohappy that you did this so soon after
everything has happened with your retirement.Congratulations on a wonderful career, and it's
great to have you in this community. It's special. I mean, I'm
a native and it's special to mewhen people like you stick around and have
this kind of longevity and connection toour community. Well, thank you.

(45:44):
It's been an honor to be here. I obviously have respected you and what
you do for many many years,and having been involved in youth sports as
you have as well. I thinksometimes we don't all get me included the
impact that we can make. Man, I want to thank you obviously everybody
in the Sports Hall of Fame andthat part of it as well. But

(46:07):
if we can just continue in Coloradoto generate good people, we've got a
chance. Absolutely. Yeah. Allright, thanks coach, Thank you,
Thank you, coach. New episodesof Cut, Traded, Fired, Retired
are released weekly on nearly every podcastplatform. Please follow, download, and
review this podcast wherever you listen topodcasts, and remember you can get social

(46:29):
and find out about new episodes onTwitter and Instagram at ctf our podcast and
check out the website ctfourpodcast dot com. To find out more about me,
visit Susiewarton dot com. Thanks somuch for listening. Feel free to share
this episode, and until next time, please be careful, be safe,
and be kind. Take care
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