Making His Mark: RJ’s #51 Retired

While waiting to speak to Randy Johnson, the media was presented with eye-full: a 51-inch D-Bat Dog.  In honor of the Big Unit’s number being retired, the culinary masterminds at Chase Field thought it would be fitting to step their collective game up.  While the media members were enthralled and tried to wrap their heads around the logistics of this creation, Johnson snuck up on the group, something that doesn’t happen often with a 6’10” frame and a pitching arsenal that makes your jaw drop.

J0hnson made his way to his seat, not a care in the world.  The Diamondbacks media relations team had his chair prepped with a few water bottles, but the Heineken-toting Johnson laughed and asked, “Who needs water when you have a beer?”

This is far from the Randy Johnson baseball fans have become familiar with on the mound and at the podium.   RJ admitted he had some nerves addressing the 60-70 Hall of Famers on stage with him in Cooperstown last week.  But Randy had the home-field advantage Saturday night and it showed. 

The “K’s” were fully illuminated as Johnson made his way from the left field bullpen. Joe Garagiola Jr. and Jerry Colangelo, the duo that originally brought him to Phoenix, Derrick Hall and Ken Kendrick, the duo that was instrumental in bringing him back to the desert, sat on along with representatives of the two other retired numbers in Chase Field: a Jackie Robinson scholar and Luis Gonzalez.

Surrounded by plenty of shirts sporting “Johnson” in the purple and teal, Johnson was able to thank his teammates, coaches, and personnel that helped him along the way during his tenure with the Diamondbacks.  He received a custom made drum set designed after the stylings of the band Rush and bounced around with a child-like enthusiasm that seemed foreign from the scowling, fiery competitor that won four Cy Young seasons with the Snakes.

Yes, the stress and edge has seemed to melt away from Johnson after his 22-year career and surviving the Hall of Fame ceremony he was so nervous for.  And now Johnson takes that lanky stride off into the sunset where can relax, take some photos, work on his drumming, and know that “51” up in right field is a reminder of all he did in that building.