Counsell 'blessed' to have played with Big Unit

Counsell 'blessed' to have played with Big Unit

PHOENIX -- Craig Counsell will be preparing to manage the Brewers at Chase Field on Sunday when former teammate Randy Johnson is inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Counsell conjured Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, on this very field, in describing his most vivid memory of the Big Unit.

"The first thing that comes to my mind was just him walking out of the dugout in Game 7 of the World Series, going down to the bullpen," Counsell said. "In Game 6, he had started and thrown [104] pitches, and you didn't want him to have to go down to the bullpen -- it was kind of a precarious moment in the game and everything -- but it just kind of gave you chills to see the big man going down there, knowing he said, 'Look, I'm available.'"

Johnson had pitched seven innings the night before, so it surprised some teammates when he showed up wearing spikes in the dugout for Game 7. In the seventh inning, the stadium erupted when Johnson walked to the bullpen in case he was needed to pitch.

That's just what happened. The Yankees scored a run apiece in the seventh and eighth innings for a 2-1 lead, and Johnson was called upon to record the final out of the eighth inning and to pitch a 1-2-3 ninth. The D-backs then rallied for a pair of runs against Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth inning, with Counsell at first base when Luis Gonzalez blooped the Series-winning hit to left field.

"[Johnson] is a great competitor, but you expose yourself there, you know?" Counsell said. "It's Game 7 of the World Series, and he's not operating on a full tank right there, but he went down and pitched a huge inning."

Of Johnson's Hall of Fame honor, Counsell said, "You're happy for him. It's a deserved honor. To me, any time you look back and say, 'I got to be a teammate of a Hall of Famer, I got to watch a guy win three Cy Youngs and be a small part of it,' you feel blessed you were able to be a small part of it."

Counsell received an ovation from the Chase Field crowd on Thursday when the D-backs' scoreboard crew recognized him at the start of the second inning.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.