One week before being traded to the Diamondbacks, Chris Johnson — then an Astro — sent a 1-2 pitch from Josh Collmenter to the Chase Field wall in deep left-center field. That was one of his four hits in a late-July series against the Diamondbacks in which Johnson was able to showcase his solid bat and steady defense for General Manager Kevin Towers.
On Sunday, July 29, Chris Johnson was called out of a Minute Maid Park batting cage and into then Manager Brad Mills’ office to be told that he had been traded to the Diamondbacks. He then proceeded to the locker room to apologize to his Astros teammates — many of whom he had made his way through the minor league circuit with — for leaving them in the midst of an arduous and adverse rebuild.
“When times are rough, teams kind of bind together,” Johnson explained. “Guys get close when you go through stuff like that. So just before I left, I said to a couple of the guys I had been with for a while, ‘Hey, sorry I’m leaving, but keep it up.'”
The next day, when Johnson first donned Sedona red, he made another strong impression. But this one didn’t just catch Towers’ attention; it caught the attention of the entire fan base. In the fifth inning of a key game against the division-rival Dodgers, the Diamondbacks’ number six hitter, Miguel Montero, was intentionally walked to load the bases for Johnson. Four pitches later, Johnson hit a grand slam — the first of his big league career.
Johnson would go on to hit four more home runs on the Diamondbacks’ 10-game road trip to Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. The five home runs would make for his first away home runs of the season and they all came in parks he had played in earlier that season with the Astros.
On Friday, the 27-year-old third baseman made his home debut with the Diamondbacks. In it, he got the lone hit and lone RBI versus Nationals’ phenom Stephen Strasburg and spoke lengthily and cordially with the media following the 9-1 loss.
And before Saturday’s game, I decided to introduce myself to the newest Diamondbacks’ starter and maybe make a little small talk.
“Hi Chris, I’m Jules Tompkins with Arizona Sports 620,” I said. “Do you have a minute?”
“Hi Jules, I’m Chris Johnson and I’ve got a minute, sure. Nice to meet you.” The classy, humble response just added to the impression-making binge Johnson’s been on.
In 13 games with the Diamondbacks, Chris Johnson has 18 RBIs and a .286 batting average.
Chris Johnson quick facts:
-Born in Naples, Florida
-Attended Bishop Verot High School in Fort Myers before going on to play at Stetson University and Florida Atlantic University
-Resides in Fort Myers in the offseason
-Drafted by the Astros in the fourth round of the 2006 draft
-Made his major league debut on September 9, 2009 versus Atlanta; got the call-up due to a Geoff Blum injury
-Father, Ron, is the manager of the Norfolk Tides, the Triple-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles
-Signed through the end of the 2012 season
-A self-described “huge” Florida State Seminoles fan