Johnson following in father's footsteps

Mariners reliever, father posted first win for O's, exactly 23 years apart

Johnson following in father's footsteps

SEATTLE -- Mariners reliever Steve Johnson gave his dad a marvelous Father's Day gift last year, commissioning an artist to paint a collage showing scenes of their two intertwined baseball careers, a remarkable story told on canvas.

But for Dave Johnson, a former Major League pitcher, the best present is the one his 28-year-old son continues providing on a regular basis -- the ability to live vicariously through his offspring as they continue enjoying the big league journey together.
 

Dave, who now works as a TV and radio analyst on Orioles broadcasts in his hometown of Baltimore, makes no effort of hiding the roller coaster ride that comes with rooting on his oldest boy's outings from across the country.

Steve signed with Seattle after being released by the Rangers in the spring, and he pitched in 16 games out of the bullpen until being designated for assignment on Friday. He could remain in the Mariners organization if he clears waivers, a process that will play out in the next few days.

"I'm living and dying with every pitch," said Dave, who spent five years in the Majors with the Pirates, Orioles and Tigers between 1987-93.

Pitching Mechanics: Johnson

This father-son combo is bonded by common experience. Everything Steve is doing, Dave has been through as well.

"Having a dad that pitched in the big leagues was always a plus for me, because it's someone who I could actually listen to," said Steve. "A lot of people don't want to listen to their parents talk or anything like that, but my dad was there, and I always tried to learn as much as I could from him."

One of the biggest lessons is to enjoy the moment and appreciate the baseball experience as long as possible. Dave retired in 1993 after splitting time between Triple-A Toledo and the Tigers. After spending most of his career with his hometown Orioles and being close to his wife, Tera, and two sons, it was a strain to be away from the family.

Steve was 6-years old at that time, starting to play baseball, and dad wanted to be part of that. He wound up coaching his son through most of his youth and wouldn't trade that for anything.

"[My father] was the person that taught me my delivery," said Steve. "He was always making sure I did things the proper way and the mental part of the game and teaching me to go about the game the right way. That was a big part of it. He loved doing it. We still talk every game, after every outing, whether I'm learning something new or bouncing stuff off him and keeping him updated on everything. We talk about situations and pitches and all that stuff. It's a nice thing to have."

The Johnson family visits Steve.

At 56, Dave still puts on catching gear every offseason to catch his son's bullpen work in Baltimore, and they play catch as often as possible.

"I almost don't throw to anybody else in the offseasons, because there's not many other people around. And I want him there, because he gives me more feedback then anybody else can," said Steve. "I've only gotten him a few times when he's not reached down, and I've got him in the foot. That pretty much ends the bullpen session."

Dave won his first Major League game for the Orioles on Aug. 8, 1989. Steve recorded his first big-league win, also for the O's, on Aug. 8, 2012, in a 6-1 victory over the Mariners at Camden Yards.

"How insane is that, 23 years to the day later?" said Dave. "A father-son for the same team, both hometown kids playing at home. Both teams in a pennant race. The Orioles hadn't been in a race for years in '89 when I came up and had lost 14 years in a row when Steve came up in a pennant race. It was uncanny. Crazy."

Dave and Steve Johnson's baseballs from their first wins.

The two each have the game ball from their first wins and the indelible memory as well.

"The odds of that happening were ridiculous, and to share that day with him in our careers was awesome," said Steve. "And ironically, [my first win] ended up happening against the Mariners. Just the way things have worked out are pretty cool. [My dad] has been a big part of my career."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.