September 02, 2011
Many fathers and sons probably will be having a catch over Labor Day weekend. Howard Johnson just wants to have one with his son during a professional baseball game.
The former New York Mets slugger, who retired all the way back in 1995 after 14 MLB seasons, will be suiting up for the Rockland Boulders of the independent Can-Am League this weekend. The Boulders also signed HoJo's son, Glen, to make it a Johnson & Johnson tandem for their games against the Newark Bears on Sunday and Monday.
"This may be my last go 'round so it's a great opportunity to play in a professional game with my son," said Howard Johnson. "How many fathers can do that?"
Playing in Pomona, N.Y., an hour outside of Queens in New York City, the Boulders are clearly hoping for a good draw for their final two home games of the season with a former Mets star in the lineup.
What does the 50-year-old HoJo have left in the tank? He says he hopes to just make contact while playing first base for the Boulders on a bad knee that needs replacement surgery.
No word on which position Glen will play, but he mostly played as a third baseman at Jacksonville University. The Mets selected him in the 36th round in 2007, but he never signed with the team.
Starting in 1985, Johnson played nine seasons with the Mets, including the glorious '86 World Series champs, compiling a .251/.341/.459 average with 192 home runs and 629 RBIs. His best season came in 1989, when he led the majors in offensive WAR and runs scored, and hit 36 homers, 41 doubles and stole 41 bases. (He was a fantasy baseball beast.)
HoJo eventually joined the team's coaching staff for three seasons, beginning as the first base coach before moving to hitting coach. Johnson left the organization when manager Jerry Manuel was fired after last season. He was offered positions with the team's affiliates in Port St. Lucie and Brooklyn.
Amazin' Avenue presumes that Johnson is doing this so that his son might have a shot to play with the Boulders next season. That is, if the Boulders stay in business. A big weekend at the gate may provide enough of a boost for the team to stay afloat. And wouldn't they owe the Johnsons something after that?
Update: Shawn Reilly, one of the Boulders owners, emailed to thank us for the post, but also to dispute the notion that the team might be going out of business. He said:
"I am one of the owners of the team and I have only one point to dispute in the article…we didn't sign HoJo to keep the team afloat. We were going to sign Glen to play for us anyway once we needed a player (and that became a nesccesity last week) and this was a nice chance for Howard to get on the field with his son.
"I assure you that [the] team had a very successful first season and has a bright future in the this ballpark and market. We will draw 125,000 fans this year and we had 7 rain-outs. ..."
So, if you ever wanted to see HoJo play but never got around to it, or want to tell your children you watched him on the field, you have two last chances to do it this holiday weekend. Get out there and support those Boulders!
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