Randy Johnson prepares for Baseball Hall of Fame induction

The former Diamondbacks ace will receive baseball’s highest honor on Sunday


Courtesy of Dirk Hansen

Former Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Randy Johnson prepares to throw a pitch during a 2008 start against the San Diego Padres. Johnson will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 26 after an illustrious career which saw him win 303 games and record 4,875 strikeouts.

Jeremy Beren, Editor-in-Chief

I was in the moment when I was doing this, in the moment over 22 years.”

— Randy Johnson

Although Randy Johnson pitched 22 seasons in Major League Baseball, even he sometimes has trouble appreciating the breadth of his accomplishments on the mound.

“There’s a lot of things in this game that I did that I can’t wrap my head around,” Johnson said. “I was in the moment when I was doing this, in the moment over 22 years.”

In an exclusive interview with Todd Walsh of Fox Sports Arizona, the former Diamondbacks pitcher reflected on baseball, family and how melding the two helped land him in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY – where he will be formally enshrined on Sunday.

“My dad’s not here, hasn’t been here since ’92, Christmas Day I lost him,” Johnson recalled. “So he didn’t see much of my career and see me get married and see his grand-kids.”

In that career, Johnson became one of only 24 pitchers in baseball history to win 300 games, and one of just four to record 4,000 strikeouts. Over his 22 seasons, Johnson pitched for six teams – most famously for Arizona, where he won the Cy Young Award for best pitcher in his league in four consecutive seasons between 1999 and 2002. The lefty also was named the co-Most Valuable Player of the 2001 World Series, which remains the only World Series championship in D-backs history.

Regarding his legendary career, the man affectionately nicknamed “Big Unit” believes that it could be easier to talk about his time in MLB now that he has stepped away from the game.

“It may be one of those things that now I’m able to talk about a little bit easier, a little more freely,” he said.

In Cooperstown on Sunday, Johnson will try to reconcile the scowling, occasionally angry flamethrower that many fans remember with the camera-toting family man he is today. The 51-year-old wants to show admirers, fans and the other members of the Hall of Fame another side to his personality – one without the glare that put fear into anyone who stepped in the batter’s box.

“I’ll try to compose my emotions – my dad not being there, one of my brothers not being there,” Johnson said. “Sharing the moment with my children and my friends that are gonna be there from high school, college, the Seattle Mariners organization.”

It was in Seattle where his career took off in the mid-1990’s, but the 6-foot-10-inch Johnson remains a larger-than-life figure in the Valley. He will enter the Hall of Fame with a D-backs cap on his plaque, and the team will retire his #51 jersey on Aug. 8.

However, Johnson’s induction ceremony takes precedence, and one person in particular he would like to honor is his mother.

“She’s 87 years old, so this is gonna be a special moment for her,” Johnson said. “And that will be my emotional moment, talking to her and letting people know what she meant to me.”

While Johnson prepares for his big day, D-backs Chief Baseball Officer Tony La Russa – a Hall of Famer himself – offered a little advice to Johnson on how he should deal with all the commotion.

“The suggestion we all have is ‘make the speech on Friday so you can have Saturday and Sunday,’ because that thing is looming for him on Sunday,” La Russa told Walsh. “His life will never be the same, and then he’ll enjoy next year more than this one just because the pressure of doing it right on Sunday. It is a fantastic experience, an unbelievable club to join and Randy comes in with all flying colors.”

The Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony will begin at 10:30 a.m. PST on Sunday, July 26. It will be broadcast on MLB Network. A live stream will be offered on mlb.com.