Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Legendary Georgetown baseball coach Mike Johnson has been elected to the S.C. Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
The announcement was made public on Saturday at the “Celebrating Georgetown Baseball” reunion at the Georgetown High School.
Johnson spent 43 seasons coaching baseball at Winyah, Howard and Georgetown high schools before retiring in 2013.
“I’m just a guy that loved baseball and just got started and then five years turned into 10, and then 15 years …” Johnson said. “There’s so many people more deserving. I never thought about that. We just wanted to go play.”
Johnson guided the Gators to a Lower State championship, and the Bulldogs to a state championship in 1988 and two Lower State championships.
Many of Johnson’s former players attended Saturday’s reunion, which was supposed to be held at Mike Johnson Park but was moved indoors after days of rain.
Johnson was told he’d be attending an old-timers game and having lunch at the park.
“They did a really good job of making it a surprise,” he said.
Organizers relied on social media like Facebook and Twitter, which Johnson refuses to use.
When Johnson and his wife, Lisa, walked in the school and a thunderous round of applause erupted, he was stunned.
“I just didn’t know what to say,” he said.
His first clue that it was not an ordinary lunch was when he spotted his Erskine College baseball coach Harry Stille, and Georgetown County Superintendent of Schools Randy Dozier.
The afternoon was filled with stories from former players of all generations, which brought many laughs and a few tears, and tributes from coaches who worked with Johnson, and coached against him.
Several of the former players said Johnson stressed not just being a good ballplayer, but being a good man. Many spoke about being “a better man” for having been associated with the coach.
“I’ve been blessed with great kids,” Johnson said.
After all the speeches, Mike Johnson Jr., Mike Johnson III and David Curry unveiled Johnson’s framed No. 20 jersey, and announced that no other Bulldog will wear that number. It is the second baseball jersey that Georgetown High has retired, joining the No. 24 of Joe Isaac III.
Curry coached at Johnson’s side for decades, and Joe Isaac Jr. is a longtime friend.
“We just meshed together and we grew up together and we coached together,” Johnson said of Curry and Isaac. “We’re like three brothers. We had disagreements, but in the end we were brothers.”
Meagen Johnson, who has followed her father into coaching, then unveiled a plaque that will be installed at Mike Johnson Park which reads: “In recognition and appreciation for his superior leadership, firm guidance, dedication, and inspiration to the youth of Georgetown County. Serving over 40 years as head baseball coach, teacher, and mentor. He compiled a record of 744 wins and 449 losses.”
Johnson was clearly moved at the end of the reunion, but praised his players, coaches, “park men,” William Dozier and Ricky Thompson, parents and volunteers, without whom he said none of his success would be possible.
“I appreciate it, but it’s more than I deserve,” he said.